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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Omarosa Criticizes Trump; Remembering Charlottesville; Paul Manafort Trial Continues; White House Slams Omarosa Tell-All As "Filled With Lies". Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired August 10, 2018 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: One year after Charlottesville, the president again chooses to divide.
THE LEAD starts right now.
A year after deadly protests, with the ugliness of racial bigotry on full display, President Trump reignites his war with NFL players. But are their protests the ones President Trump should really be condemning this week?
Former presidential assistant Omarosa calling the president a bigot in her new book. The White House hits back hard. Can any of these people be believed?
Plus, the man on a mission to take on Trump. Ex-porn star Stormy Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti, what is he doing in the land where all potential presidential candidates go?
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We begin this afternoon with our national lead. President Trump once again, seeing a divided nation and doing the opposite of trying to bring us together, giving a presidential megaphone to one side in a controversial cultural issue that sometimes stokes racial tensions.
The decision comes at an inopportune time, a year after what even many of his allies consider to be the low point of his presidency. Come Sunday, White nationalists and bigots like the ones you're seeing on your screen from a year ago are expected to once again take to the streets, this time in front of the White House, marking one year since their hate-filled rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where one white supremacist killed counterprotester Heather Heyer.
It's a rally that President Trump said had very fine people on both sides. But rather than condemn these bigots or their beliefs today, the president took aim at a different protest, a small group of NFL players calling attention to racial injustice and inequality during the national anthem last night.
Mr. Trump tweeting this morning -- quote -- "The NFL players are at it again, taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the national anthem. A football game that fans are paying so much money to watch and enjoy is no place to protest. Most of that money goes to the players anyway. Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your national anthem or be suspended without pay."
This is an issue that President Trump has said he believes to be a winning one for him. And while it may, in fact, rally many in his base, it also is another example of this president seeking to divide a country that, in some places, frankly, seems to be fraying at the seams.
TAPPER (voice-over): Few acts can prompt a presidential tweet as predictably as an NFL player protesting racial injustice during the national anthem.
After some football players took knees and raised fists during preseason games last night, President Trump embrace what he believes is a winning issue for him, notwithstanding how divisive it is, sounding off on Twitter, saying players -- quote -- "wanted to show their outrage at something that most of them are unable to define. Find another way to protest" -- unquote.
Of course, plenty of players, including Philadelphia Eagle Malcolm Jenkins, who raised his fist Thursday, have defined their motivations, often and in detail.
MALCOLM JENKINS, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: I don't see how we should somehow be quiet when we want to talk about racial equality or inequality and social justice.
TAPPER: The president's campaign against NFL players staging these civil rights protests began in September 2017.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Get that son of a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) field right now.
TAPPER: According to sworn testimony from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, the president in a private conversation had told him that the issue was -- quote -- "a very winning, strong issue for him," adding, "This one lifts me."
But critics cry it lifts up bigotry as well.
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT, NAACP: Our commander in chief is in fact the racial opportunist in chief in this country.
TAPPER: All this as we approach the one-year anniversary of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, after which the president failed to denounce its racist attendees clearly, decisively and without any moral equivalencies between neo-Nazis and those protesting neo-Nazis.
TRUMP: I think there's blame on both sides, and I have no doubt about it.
TAPPER: Critics and many prominent African-American say hateful racial rhetoric has only amplified since.
SPIKE LEE, DIRECTOR: Since this guy's got in the White House, it's not even a dog whistle. It's a bullhorn.
TAPPER: Racists seem to be more comfortable coming out of the shadows, such as this neo-Nazi telling CNN's Sara Sidner why he voted for President Trump.
DANIEL BURNSIDE, ULYSSES RESIDENT: Rural America spoke up when they elected Trump. We have the possibility of becoming a minority in our own country, a possibility of becoming a minority in our own country.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It sounds to me like you're afraid of being me.
And being me...
BURNSIDE: This is my country.
SIDNER: ... is great.
This is also my country.
BURNSIDE: You guys didn't win the culture war.
TAPPER: That culture war rages on.
D.L. HUGHLEY, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: Our country is being torn apart. There is -- there is a spirit in this country that is so vile, I don't even know if America can -- I don't think we can come back from that.
TAPPER: The conversations can be difficult. Kanye West was once quick to pounce on perceived racism from the White House after Hurricane Katrina.
KANYE WEST, MUSICIAN: George Bush doesn't care about black people.
TAPPER: But West now considers himself a Trump supporter. And last night he had trouble answering this simple question from Jimmy Kimmel.
JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": You so famously, and so powerfully, said George Bush doesn't care about black people. It makes me wonder what makes you think that Donald Trump does or any people at all?
Why don't we take a break? We will come back.
And Kanye West...
TAPPER: Let's bring in the panel to have this conversation. Perry, why does the president want to have this question, this
conversation, especially one year after what even a lot of his friends and supporters say was the low point of his presidency?
PERRY BACON, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: Two reasons, I think.
First of all, I think they really believe -- remember when Mike Pence went to that football game last year, sort of knew this would happen, so it was a stunt in some ways, and then left?
And I think, if you look at the polls, the second thing -- I have to do a lot of poll reading in my job. And the plurality of people don't like NFL kneeling. And this is the one issue where Trump probably has the majority support with him.
And I think that's why, particularly the Republican Party, it's very unified around being opposed to kneeling. So this actually -- we may not like it, but it may be one of the places where Trump is playing some smart politics.
TAPPER: No, it's absolutely true that polls indicate most people or at least a plurality, depending on the poll, are with him.
And, in fact, let's put up this "Washington Post"/Kaiser poll earlier this year, which found that 42 percent of adults said it's sometimes appropriate to protest by kneeling during the national anthem, while 53 percent said it's never appropriate.
That's a "Washington Post"/Kaiser survey.
So, I mean, he's on the winning side of this.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No, he's on the losing side of it, because as president of the United States, especially after what we saw a year ago, with the anniversary of Charlottesville, really remembering what happened in Charlottesville, he should be reuniting people, he should be bringing the country together.
But instead he gets into this other battle. We wake up this morning to this really awful tweet. And what I see from the tweet is that he doesn't see these players as American citizens who are speaking up against an issue that is incredibly disturbing, which is race in America, racial injustice.
He's basically seeing them as entertainers, only entertainers. In this tweet, he basically tells them sit down and shut up, stop, you're making -- you're being paid a lot of money, be cool about it.
And that's how he sees all black athletes. Look at what he did with LeBron James. And black figures, he goes to the I.Q., talks about their I.Q. He tells him, like I said, sit down and be quiet.
And so this is a pattern, a bigoted, racist pattern by this president. And I will add one more thing. This week, we remembered the birthdays of Stephon Clark, who would have been 24 years old this week, and Mike Brown, who would have been 22, both killed by the hands of the police, murdered, and haven't gotten any justice.
And that is what the Kaepernick and others are really protesting, right? They're protesting the racial injustice. And what do we do to stop this? And that's the that's the question here.
TAPPER: And, Bill, President Trump told Dallas cowboys owner Jerry Jones, according to a deposition, that the NFL protests -- quote -- "They are a very winning, strong issue for me. Tell everybody you can't win this one. This one lifts me."
And the NFL owners seemed to take that advice.
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, that was depressing too.
I mean, I would say the other side of it is whatever other presidents' personal views might have been about standing for the anthem -- and I worked in the first Bush administration, and I imagine George H.W. Bush had kind of old-fashioned views About that and probably wasn't -- probably had a certain amount of contempt perhaps for well-paid athletes -- not -- contempt is too strong.
Maybe he would understand why they might do it, but thought probably that was not a wise way to protest. But he thought also he was president United States and it wasn't -- he wasn't going to weigh in and exacerbate racial divisions at a time when they were real, when there are real racial divisions.
So, for me, it's partly about what Trump believes, but it's also about a total lack of understanding or lack of respect for what the duties of the office are and what you should and shouldn't say, whatever your private views or one way or the other.
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He has won in the way that -- the framing of this. He's made it about patriotism.
And, as you pointed out, this is not about patriotism. I'm sure a lot of those -- probably most of those players that are kneeling are quite patriotic. This has to do with human rights. This has to do with everything that was going on between the police.
But, in framing, look at those poll questions. Do you think it's OK to protest and kneel during the national anthem? It doesn't say what. It doesn't say anything. It just says protest.
So that, in and of itself, the president has won.
TAPPER: And speaking of that topic, President Trump said in his tweet that he thought most players didn't even have any idea what they were protesting, couldn't describe it.
Malcolm Jenkins -- I'm biased. I'm pro-Eagles. Malcolm Jenkins of the Eagles...
TAPPER: The Super Bowl champions.
TAPPER: But Malcolm Jenkins tweeted before last night's game, this preseason game, where players did protest, during the anthem to protest racial inequality -- Jenkins tweeted -- quote -- "Before we enjoy this game, let's take some time to ponder that more than 60 percent of the prison population are people of color. The NFL is made up of 70 percent African-Americans. What you witness on the field does not represent the reality of everyday America. We are the anomalies."
It sounds to me like he's thought this thing through, no matter what President Trump says.
BACON: I have heard this a lot: The players, it's not clear what they're protesting.
They have written op-eds. They spoken about this. It is very clear what they're protesting, why they are doing it. You don't have to agree with it to understand that they have been very clear about the case they're trying to make about policing in the country, from Kaepernick forward.
And I do think the timing you talked about in terms of Charlottesville, I'm surprised -- I'm not surprised Trump said this. Let me stop there.
BACON: Another moment of like, he's still -- and I still think also, I kind of expected this.
I expected around the time football season started, he would weigh in on this issue, because he really thinks this is the issue where he's won on. And, like you said, the NFL owners basically folded.
So, in some cases, they have basically set out a policy in which kneeling is going to eventually lead to fines and maybe suspensions. So, in some ways, Trump -- the NFL owners have rewarded Trump's policies.
I'm not surprised he thinks this is a winning issue for him.
TAPPER: And one other thing that's interesting is, in June, the president seemed to be taking a more interesting and introspective approach.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Ask all of those people to recommend to me, because that's what they're protesting, people that they think were unfairly treated by the justice system.
And I understand that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: There's the president saying that he understands why they're protesting, but, of course, that Trump has vanished, and we have the Archie Bunker Trump on Twitter today.
JEAN-PIERRE: Exactly. Yes.
Well, here's the thing. It makes him feel powerful. It energizes his base. It is exactly what he does when he's trying to distract us, right? We would be talking about -- probably, we would be starting about talking about Manafort and Russia, because that's really...
TAPPER: It's an hour show. We got plenty of time.
JEAN-PIERRE: But that's where the Twitter takes us, right? It takes us to this distraction, the shiny bright light.
KRISTOL: But it's worse than a distraction, because, again, I come -- he is making racial tensions in this country worse.
KRISTOL: I think that's just a fact.
JEAN-PIERRE: He really is. That's so true.
KRISTOL: And if you're president of the United States, the one thing you shouldn't do at this -- in 2018 is make racial tensions...
TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We got a lot more to talk about.
Coming up next: the White House firing back this afternoon at former presidential adviser and reality TV villain Omarosa and the salacious claims she's making about President Trump.
Plus, the mystery of the so-called Manhattan Madam who is going under oath in Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
I told you we would talk about it, Korine.
TAPPER: Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[16:17:04] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back.
Turning to our politics lead now. The White House is fighting back against salacious claims of former assistant to President Trump, Omarosa Manigault Newman, in her brand new tell-all book.
The reality TV star was the highest ranking African-American woman in the West Wing before she was fired in December. According to "The Washington Post", Manigault Newman says she was subsequently offered a $15,000 a month job on the Trump campaign that would, of course, require that she keep quiet about her time in the Trump administration. Some are casting this as hush money.
Before the election, Manigault Newman said that, quote, every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump. Two years later, she's calling the president a, quote, racist, misogynist and bigot, according to book excerpts obtained by "The Washington Post."
CNN's Kaitlan Collin is traveling with the president in New Jersey.
And, Kaitlan, I know the White House is pushing back. What exactly are they disputing?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, they're disputing the book and the entirety here, Jake. Sarah Sanders, the press secretary, issuing quite a statement saying that instead of telling the truth about the good that President Trump and his administration have been doing, that instead Omarosa, quote, this book is riddled with lies and false accusations. Sarah Sanders said, it's sad that a disgruntled former White House employee is trying to profit off these false attacks, and even worse that the media would now give her a platform after not taking her seriously when she only had positive things to say about the president during her time in the administration.
Now, Jake, I should note, Sarah Sanders is not her in New Jersey with the president and the rest of the White House staff. She's actually on vacation but still issued this statement.
For the last several days, aides knew that these kinds of claims were coming in this book ahead of Omarosa's publicity tour and they encouraged President Trump not to react to it and not to give oxygen to the claims made in the book. That seems to have held for several days but today, something clearly irritated the president over this and he had his press secretary issue this statement.
TAPPER: What exactly was Omarosa's role in the White House?
COLLINS: She was actually a very high up employee. She had the title of assistant to the president. She was a top earner, making $179,000. But her role was not very well defined and aides often complained that they didn't exactly know what it was that she did in the White House. That was clearly something that made her clash with John Kelly, the new chief of staff whenever he came into the White House last fall and tried to weed out people who he thought didn't have very well-defined roles.
But, Jake, I have been on the phone with current and former officials who worked with Omarosa and they said that they were glad when she left the White House. They think a lot of the claims that she makes in this book are unfounded and absurd, but, Jake, they did concede that she had a close relationship with President Trump. Aides encouraged him not to hire her when he first became president and he did so anyways and insisted on doing so and spoke with her and invited her into the Oval Office.
So, they did have a close relationship despite the White House saying that what she says in this book isn't true.
[16:20:04] TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, with the president in New Jersey, thanks so much.
Let's talk about it with the experts.
Omarosa not credible? I understand why the White House would say that. But to be honest, there are a lot of people with credibility issues associated with this White House, including President Trump.
JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Especially if you speak out against the president and this administration, then you have a whole -- then all guns are blazing toward you. So, some -- she does have some of these conversations on tape.
TAPPER: She was taping them in the Oval Office?
KUCINICH: Taping them in the Oval Office. And so, and I -- "Daily Beast" reported that. Jack Dawsey, I reported that he listened to it and they matched up with the quotes that are in the books. Some of this is very much valid and there are tapes to prove it. We just -- the whole book isn't on tape. So --
TAPPER: The Trump campaign is not responding to requests for comment about the accusation that they offered Omarosa a job after she was fired from the White House in exchange for the $15,000 a month, she would make appearances and such. But also, she would not be allowed to talk about her time at the White House. This is after she'd already given some interviews.
Do you find that credible?
PERRY BACON, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: Generally, when people don't deny things, they might be true. So, I think it's credible. I mean, the idea that they would offer hush money is not the most ethical administration or political team we have ever seen, So, I'm not surprised by that.
I mean, that said, Omarosa's book suggesting Trump uses racial and racist rhetoric, I don't need a book to know that. And so, I'll be curious to see if she has anything we didn't sort of already know about his general behavior.
And you asked a question about -- to Kaitlan about what did she do? There is -- I think they do have one point is as a person covering the White House, never clear to me what she did or if she had any real influence. So, the fact she is disgruntled leaving, she had very little power, she was fired unceremoniously, she said very loyal things to Trump before and now saying something very different, she is not among the more credible people to criticize him.
TAPPER: She didn't just say positive things about President Trump. Take a listen. This is an interview she gave to "Frontline" in 2016 before Trump was elected, predicting what was going to happen after Election Day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump. It's everyone who's ever doubted Donald, whoever disagreed, whoever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, Sarah Sanders says we didn't cover the positive things that Omarosa said. We sure covered that one. We sure covered that one.
TAPPER: But the fact is that she's going from that bizarre statement to calling the president a racist, misogynist bigot. Do you believe either one of these Omarosas?
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Unfortunately, she -- that first statement not entirely false. An awful lot of people have bowed down to President Trump who knew better and who said they never would in 2015, 2016. So, maybe she knew something about the power of the Oval Office and the ability of people to rationalize.
TAPPER: And she predicted he would win also.
KRISTOL: Right. I think the hush money thing is amazing. If I'm not mistaken, his former bodyguard who worked in the White House also left and is being paid $15,000 a month by the campaign.
I mean, really? This is now the situation we're in with someone disgruntled. They fire you and they give you money to keep you quiet. I mean, she rejected it for whatever reason.
But that's itself very revealing. I don't recall that in the past. White House aides leaving and being given money to keep quiet.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, SENIOR ADVISER, MOVEON.ORG: Bill, I have to say the hush money is not surprising with the Playboy playmate, the -- so it's a common theme that we're hearing with this president. With Omarosa, I mean, look, she's trying to sell a book. She worked and she's worked in the administration before in the Clinton -- I think for Gore under Clinton. And so, it's not surprising.
I agree with you. We don't really need the book or tapes to tell us that Donald Trump is a bigot or a racist. We have a lot of data points to prove that to us. Central Park Five. How he entered into politics going after Obama, President Obama, calling -- with the birtherism. How he jumped into the presidency, presidential race with calling Mexicans racists and --
JEAN-PIERRE: I'm sorry. Rapists and drug dealers. So, we have a lot there so we don't certainly need a book to tell us that.
TAPPER: One of the things that's just interesting is if you believe that she was offered this hush money and other people are being paid hush money -- I mean, that's not President Trump or the "National Enquirer" paying off somebody. That's, you know, these people, these hardworking Trump supporters sending in $5 contributions to help make America great again, to stand by President Trump, they're paying theoretically if you believe the story, they're paying to keep people quiet.
KUCINICH: You know, if there's a lot more silence, they could work on making America great again and they won't have to fight off accusations about this book.
But you have to -- I mean, Omarosa, she's a show woman.
[16:25:03] And that's probably one of the reasons they wanted her out of the White House. But don't hate the player. Hate the game.
TAPPER: Speaking of Stormy Daniels -- speaking of Stormy Daniels -- thank you for the segue.
You know him as the lawyer for porn actress Stormy Daniels. But is Michael Avenatti really laying the groundwork to run for president? Michael Avenatti?
Stay with us.