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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Nunes: "We Have to Keep the Majority" to Protect Trump; Rep. Collins' Arrest Gives Opponent Major Money Boost; Pence: U.S. Must Maintain Dominance In Space; Dozens Of Kids Killed In Saudi Strike In School Bus; Prosecutors: Kids Brought To Compound To Train For School Shootings. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired August 9, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yet, Nunes soldiered on, this time threatening to impeach Rod Rosenstein, the man who oversees the Mueller investigation for not providing enough records to Congress.

[16:30:05]At the fundraiser, Nunes said impeachment should wait until after the Senate confirms Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I've said publicly Rosenstein deserves to be impeached. I mean, so, I don't think you're going to get any argument from most of our colleagues. The question is the timing of it right before the election."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU: Now, as Nunes has demanded more documents from Rosenstein, we have been told by multiple sources that he has actually not read some of those key documents, including one he is demanding which is the full unredacted copy of the FBI's application to surveil Carter Page. He wants that publicly released but he has not gone to the Justice Department to read it -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Manu Raju, thanks so much.

My experts are back with me.

Mike Rogers, you used to be the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, when it worked in a much more bipartisan way. I want to play the full comment made by Nunes and get your reaction.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

NUNES: So therein lies, so it's like your classic Catch-22 situation where we were at a -- this puts us in such a tough spot. If Sessions won't un-recuse and Mueller won't clear the president, we're the only ones -- which is really the danger.

That's why I keep, and thank you for saying it, by the way, I mean, we have to keep all these seats. We have to keep the majority. If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away.

(END AUDIO CLIP) TAPPER: So, what Democrats and others, critics of these comments of Devin Nunes saying is it's not the job of the House Intelligence Committee chairman to protect President Trump. It's the job to find out what happened and share that information with the American people.

MIKE ROGERS (R), FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: Yes, I don't know if there's a big aha moment. He -- a partisan member goes to a partisan event and gives a partisan speech, OK. The problem is that the dysfunction of the Intelligence Committee as we used to know it.

There is -- and candidly, I think both sides have been far too aggressive partisan in these investigations. So, now, you don't know what's right. The Democrats issue their report. I don't know. Is that right? The Republicans issue their report. I don't know, is that right?

The only way we're going to get to the bottom of what's happening in all of this is through these I.G. investigations. DOJ is now looking at the FISA issue. They looked at the Clinton e-mails and they said, yes, there were some mistakes made. Those are important to correct.

But what you have now is this absolute scrum on what's happening inside the intelligence committee and why partisanship has no business in there. You need to remember, they are issuing subpoenas too. Just like you don't want the FBI to be partisan when it issues a subpoena, you certainly don't want a -- the power of a congressional committee in the intelligence business issuing a partisan subpoena either.

TAPPER: And just to remind our viewers, you were the chairman when there was a bipartisan report on what happened at Benghazi, a very controversial issue. What's your take on all this?

AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SEN. TED CRUZ: Well, it's kind of funny. He doesn't know what a catch-22 situation is. But he is in one. The shady things he is doing to protect the president are actually putting him on a path to imperiling the president.

It's funny to me that this is viewed as somewhat as a Devin Nunes problem. He was speaking at a fundraiser for Cathy McMorris Rodgers who's number four in the House. I think it's an interesting choice that she has him headlining her fundraiser. She's in a tougher race.

But my question for leadership is that are you putting your stamp of approval for the House Intelligence chairman to speak in this manner, to view his role as protecting the president? Because I hear a lot of impeachment talk being tossed around, but the Republicans are the only ones campaigning on impeachment. They're saying the situation is so bad that you have to elect Republicans to protect him and use my role as chairman to protect him.

That was his message at a fundraiser, stamped with the endorsement by Cathy McMorris-Rodgers. And so, that's the position of the party, you know, do -- is the president more guilty than -- I mean, that seems to be a tacit admission of guilt in some --

TAPPER: The idea that he's actually vulnerable to something coming from Mueller.

CARPENTER: Yes, because they're taking that seriously that Democrats will impeach the president, then they seem to be very worried about this.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: But that's an argument that we're going to hear Republicans making more and more. I talked to one Republican strategist today who's closely aligned to the White House who said, yes, you are going to see more people make the same argument that Devin Nunes did behind closed doors out in public because there is this enthusiasm gap that some of the president's supporters see between the Republican base and Democratic base and 2018 is going to be all about turning those Republicans who turned out in 2016 because they supported the president but may not have in the past or in past midterms in particular and getting them to show up.

And one of the ways to do that is through fear and through this fear of if Democrats take back the House, if Democrats take control of the Senate, you're not only going to see an impeachment, you could potentially see the president removed from office.

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: I think you see the polling of the people if that's actually persuasive.

[16:35:02] NINA TURNER, FORMER OHIO STATE SENATOR: But there it is. I mean, the impeachment process we all know is a political process. However, Nunes was telling the truth. I mean, he just laid out there that he cares more about the president and the president holding this office whether he has done right or wrong above democracy, small D democracy. He cares more about his relationship with the president. He cares more about protecting the president than he does about the people and getting at the truth.

So, he laid bare for the American people to see that this is what our job is going to be, to hold the House, to hold the Congress so we can protect the protect the president, so we can protect our political behinds.

TAPPER: So, you -- you're a former official, a Democratic official, a state senator in Ohio.

TURNER: Yes.

TAPPER: What is the hunger out there among progressives, among liberals, Democrats for impeachment? Do they want impeachment?

TURNER: I mean, some do, Jake. For me, it's not just Ohio. I mean, I have been to about 33 states in the last 10 months. And people really are still very much focused on those bread and butter issues that don't get a chance to bubble to the top because we have to constantly endure the drama that is this president. And as long as we continue to collectively play on his ground, his platform, then the needs -- the greater needs of the American people are never met. Can we look at the investigations? Can we look at all of the things,

the strife that's happening in this country and at the same time deal with the every day needs, Medicare for all, clean water. You know, and not just in Flint. Even there was a period of time about a month and a half ago where our sisters and brothers in Iowa, for example. None --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Also a problem in Ohio.

TURNER: And in Ohio, lead levels. We never get a chance to talk about those issues because we keep getting trapped and wrapped up into all things President Trump.

TAPPER: We only have 30 seconds, but I do want to ask. He also talked about impeaching Rosenstein after the midterm elections are over, assuming that the Republicans hold on to the majority. No administration member, not including presidents has been impeached since I think 1876 when the secretary of war was impeached.

Do you think that's a good road for the Republicans to go down?

ROGERS: Absolutely not. I think it's absolutely asinine that they even talk about it, number one. If they wanted to hold him in contempt as Eric Holder was held in contempt by Congress --

TAPPER: For not giving documents, yes.

ROGERS: -- for not giving documents, that's a different conversation. They have an obligation to answer subpoenas.

But talk about impeachment, for what? Because they disagree with the direction of the investigation. It makes no sense.

CARPENTER: They will impeach Rosenstein to stop the impeachment of Trump.

ROGERS: Well, I hear you and I hear why they are doing it. But I think it's a mistake.

The only thing I can say, there are Democratic presidential candidates running on impeachment. So, some notion that it's only Republicans that are talking about it --

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: We are not hearing the groundswell of that among every day people.

TAPPER: We are coming back. We're going to have more panel discussions.

So, it sounds like this is really happening. Today, the Trump administration launched its grand plan to create the space force. The new deadline to get it done, next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:42:17] TAPPER: Indicted Republican Congressman Chris Collins' Democratic opponent is cashing in after Collins' arrests on insider trading charges yesterday. Nate McMurray revealed a huge surge in donations in the past 24 hours. He said, quote: We probably raised more this morning than we have in the whole race.

Democrats are hoping that Collins' arrest will push one of the reddest districts in New York state into toss up territory and could help them take back the House.

So, let's just talk about the midterms in general. Trump won this district by 24 points. Collins got 67 percent of the vote in 2016.

Does an indictment change things, Jeremy?

DIAMOND: It doesn't seem like it. I mean, I think I heard today that his opponent, his Democratic opponent hasn't really raised much money and there is not much going on there.

But it does kind of feed this general notion that a lot of the people who have been associated with the president are increasingly coming under federal investigation or indictments or the trial of Paul Manafort. I mean, Chris Collins, you know, I covered the Trump campaign and he was one of the earliest Republicans in Congress to support the president.

TAPPER: Oh, the first. The first.

DIAMOND: He formed this Trump caucus with, you know, a handful of other members at a time when most Republicans in Congress were trying to stay as far away from Trump as possible. So, that being said, sources that I have talked to say that they're not particularly close. The president is closer with a lot of other members of Congress.

But nonetheless, there is this kind of stain of Chris Collins' association with the president and how that carries further is up to the voters.

TAPPER: And Democrats in 2006 when they took back the House back then, they did this thing about a culture of corruption. This is after the Mark Foley scandal. You survived that.

But is that --

ROGERS: You pointed right to me like it's my fault.

TAPPER: No, I'm just saying you were -- I mean, it can be tough when there are headwinds already for one party to have individual members of that party get in trouble with the law.

ROGERS: Completely. I don't think it is enough. I think this is a pretty unique case. I read the indictment. It looks pretty clear cut to me. I think he's going to have an uphill legal battle in that.

But to swing those numbers, what they'll start doing is feeding the conspiracy theory that the only reason this happened is for that reason. Is that enough to save him? I'm not sure.

I think that Republicans will make a big mistake if they are only centered on we need to be there for Trump. What we find with Republican voters now is that they're saying don't like the persona, love the policy. So, I can hold my nose for some time because I like the policy that is being implemented.

Republicans need to go home and talk about economics, jobs, the economy, education, health care, all the things that there are Republican and conservative answers for and things that they have accomplished. You know, small business through some of the regulatory relief is hiring more people than ever including African-Americans and Hispanics and minority populations in a way we haven't seen in a long time.

[16:45:06]

That's what they need to be talking about. I'd get away from all of this other stuff.

TAPPER: And what do you think in terms of Democrats using the Chris Collins' indictment as a way to paint a picture of culture of corruption? He's certainly not the only one. You got Manafort, you have Rick Gates, you have a Scott Pruitt and his ethical problems etcetera.

NINA TURNER, FORMER STATE SENATOR, OHIO: If -- I mean this year it's the gift that keeps on giving ever since the President started. You know, he talked about draining the swamp but it's his swamp so you drain other folks swamp but not your swamp. He keeps filling it up. But you know, Jake, dealing with that is one thing. I mean, that is a reality so say it, politically say it, but also the other side of this is that what are we running for. So yes the Democrats should point out the atrocities that are happening under the Republicans but they also have to say to the people, but this is what we will do when we get the power. It can't be a one-sided proposition to motivate people to come out to vote. You have to continue to talk about what you're going to do when you get the power.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But you see, one thing about the Chris Collins scandal is it doesn't just end with Chris Collins. There were other Republican House members who also held that stock --

TAPPER: Yes, in fact, let me put up -- let me put up the full screen if I can here for others Washington Post reporting. They also currently invested in the drug company, the biotech company, counsels on the board -- Congressman Culberson of Texas, Lamborn of Colorado, Mullin of Oklahoma, Long of Missouri. I'm sorry.

CARPENTER: And then also dovetails with Tom Price's rise of nation, the former Health and Human Services Director who resigned and -- it was mostly because of the expensive plane rides that he took but he also was grilled by Democrats on Capitol Hill especially during his confirmation hearings about the health stocks that he bought and traded and sold. He is a member of Congress with oversight over those issues. And so this does get into a Trump issue, a Republican issue, and my goodness there's all these scandals going on that we don't even have a chance to talk about what's going on -- Wilbur Ross right now who's a Secretary at the Department of Commerce and so this is a bigger issue that dovetails with a lot of culture of corruption themes that Republicans haven't even had time to answer for.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, I think it also flows from the -- you know, Democrats that made this argument that it flows from the top, right? And we've seen the President have kind of a different attitude about ethical laws, about it you know, his practices with his business, you know. And so obviously, Democrats are going to say look this is the President, this is the Trump presidency, this is the Trump era and it's bringing all the Republicans together.

TAPPER: All right, turning now to the battle for control over the final frontier, Vice President Pence today announcing the creation of a multi-dimensional space force. Because of the way these proposals been presented and scoffed at, there's been a lack of serious discussion in the public sphere of what many experts consider to be a legitimate need for the U.S. defend off imminent threats from adversaries such as China or Russia who have "brought new weapons of war into space itself" as Pence reiterated today. CNN's Barbara Starr now at the Pentagon picks up the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: President Trump calling for a radical change in U.S. warfighting.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we have the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines, the Coast Guard, but we have the Air Force, now we're going to have the Space Force because it's a whole -- we need it.

STARR: Today at the Pentagon, Vice President Mike Pence unveiling details of the White House plan.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The time has come to establish the United States Space Force.

STARR: Hence, making the case the U.S. is under threat.

PENCE: Russia, China, to North Korea, and Iran have pursued weapons to jam blind and disabled our navigation and communication satellites.

STARR: In 2007, China uses some missile to destroy one of its own out-of-date satellites. What if it had been targeting U.S. satellites?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, RETIRED AIR FORCE COLONEL: What that means is that it put every single thing that we have in space at risk that includes GPS communications, it includes all of the communications satellites that we have, all of the things that we depend on nowadays for a daily life was all of a sudden put at risk by that one action by the Chinese in 2007.

STARR: The Kremlin working on a similar threat.

PENCE: Russia has been designing an airborne laser to disrupt our space-based system and it claims to be developing missiles that can be launched from an aircraft mid-flight to destroy American satellites.

STARR: Defense Secretary James Mattis was initially unenthusiastic about adding more bureaucracy to the Pentagon telling Congress in 2017 I do not wish to add a separate service that would likely present a narrower and even parochial approach to space operations. Mattis now says he's on board with the plan. Congress would have to approve a new branch of the military and there are questions if more military offices are the right solution for a 21st-century threat.

LEIGHTON: I think this is maybe the wrong bureaucracy for the problem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: And if there was an attack against a U.S. satellite, well one analyst says it could push American life back into the 1940s and 50s, no internet, no weather forecasting, no online activity. Jake?

[16:50:10] TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us. Thanks so much. Was it really a makeshift shooting range used to train children to be terrorists right here in the United States? Coming up next, the text messages raising new suspicions about the compound where eleven children were found abused in New Mexico. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: The U.S. State Department this afternoon called upon the Saudi-led coalition fighting the war in Yemen, a war that the United States is a part of to conduct an investigation into a horrific event in that country today. A warning that the video we're about to show you some might find disturbing. Wounded children, their heads bandaged, their clothes and knapsacks covered in blood, these are sadly the lucky ones who survived after the school bus was blown up in an airstrike in Yemen. Officials in the area held by Houthi rebels backed by Iran say the dozens of children many under 10 years old and on their way to summer camps were killed in the Saudi Arabian-led attack. 50 people were killed in all.

The Red Cross said one hospital received 29 dead bodies of mainly children under 15 years old. The Saudis say this was a legal military action in retaliation for a Houthi missile attack on civilians. It's unclear whether the school bus was specifically targeted. The Saudis, of course, are backed by American intelligence and air support. Amnesty International says that civilians account for two-thirds of the thousands killed in Yemen since the war began in 2014. One activist with the human rights group saying that "the Saudis have shown they have no ability or no interest in conducting this war without massive civilian casualties and of course, this note, they're doing so with arms intelligence and air support provided by U.S. tax dollars.

In our "NATIONAL LEAD" the father of the man accused of training children to be school shooter speaks for the first time saying his son must have a mental disorder to have set up with the country what the county sheriff says was an Islamic extremist compound in New Mexico were 11 children ranging in age from 1-15 were being abused. The father we should note has a history of his own. He was a character witness for the convicted 1993 World Trade Center bombing mastermind. CNN's Scott McLean joins me now from New Mexico. And Scott, you have -- you have the text messages from one of the suspects.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. A neighbor tells us that these texts are between himself and Lucas Morton a suspect in this case. And that, Morton, asks for -- seems to be asking for things like borrowing equipment or even taking his wife to the grocery store without though is that Morton has his own vehicle. It's that white box truck over there but he says that he can't leave this compound during the daylight hours. This is just one more strange fact in a story that keeps getting stranger.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCLEAN: When sheriff's deputies raided this remote compound in northern New Mexico, they found 11 children forced to live in squalor. It's hard to imagine a more appalling scene but prosecutors say it gets worse. According to the criminal complaints for child abuse filed against five adults on the compound, a subsequent foster parent says the adults had trained the child in the use of an assault rifle in preparation for future school shootings. The accusation has not been proven in court.

In a statement to CNN, the suspect's attorney questioned the basis of the allegation. An ar-15 and six other guns were found on the compound that had its own makeshift shooting range. Local sheriff considered the occupants armed Islamic extremists but offered no proof. One of them Siraj Wahhaj was wanted in Georgia after disappearing to New Mexico with his then three-year-old son late last year who was later reported missing.

SIRAJ WAHHAJ, FATHER OF SIRAJ WAHHAJ JR.: We want to find out what happened. That's what we want to do even if it's again, if it's against them, we stand in judgment -- God stands in judgment against them and we stand on the side the truth.

MCLEAN: Wahhaj's father, a New York Imam spoke to reporters today. He is the first Muslim to lead a prayer in the House of Representatives. He also served as a character witness for the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

WAHHAJ: My son can be a little bit -- maybe a little bit extreme. When I say extreme, not radical, killing people or something like that. He's a little bit sometimes a little bit you know, high-strung. MCLEAN: According to a search warrant, two of the children told

social workers that Lucas Morton had buried the body of a long-missing child near a primitive bathroom were inside of a tunnel dug under the property. Police located the remains but have not identified them. CNN has obtained text messages between a neighbor and a man he says is Morton showing Morton often ask for help for an equipment or buying supplies because he can only leave the compound after dark explaining only that it's God's orders.

Morton's father said his son lacked the resources to safely live off the grid, the day before the raid he sent his father a text.

GERARD JABRIL ABDULWALI, LUCAS MORTON'S FATHER: He was saying that they was in dire need. They had ran out of money and they you know, was starving.

MCLEAN: And that tunnel that deputies mentioned in their search warrant, well it actually starts over there under that white plastic tarp and it ends or resurfaces right over here about 40 yards away. You can see there's a ladder inside of it but it is barely big enough for even the tiniest of humans to get out of it or get into it. Why it was built is really anyone's guess. And Jake, one more thing, that's that the medical examiner says that the body that was found somewhere on this property is badly decomposed it is tough to identify it still may be weeks before we know for sure.

TAPPER: All right, Scott McLean in New Mexico, thanks so much. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer. He's in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, fear of perjury.