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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Americans Want Probe Wrapped Up; Pentagon Aide Under Investigation. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired August 14, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00] SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Sit for an interview with Mueller and 70 percent of Americans say he should. But Trump's attorneys are taking a tougher tact. Rudy Giuliani consistently arguing for limits and conditions on any Mueller interview with the president.

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: We offered him an opportunity to do a form of questioning. He can say yes or no. We can do it. But the reality is -- the reality is, he doesn't need to ask a single question on obstruction. He has all the answers.

MURRAY: Even as Trump says he's willing to talk to investigators, he's still blaming the probe's existence on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself, prompting the naming of a special counsel.

Trump tweeting, if we had a real attorney general, this witch hunt would never have been started. Looking at the wrong people.

KRISTIN DAVIS, TESTIFIED BEFORE MUELLER GRAND JURY: I think they're really genuinely concerned about whether or not any collusion happened with Russia. And so their line of questioning really did revolve around whether or not this happened.

MURRAY: One of the people Mueller's team is looking at, Trump's longtime friend and adviser, Roger Stone, whose associate, Kristin Davis, also known as the Manhattan Madam, recently testified before the grand jury. Davis telling CNN, prosecutors wanted to know what she knew about Stone and whether Stone had prior knowledge about hacked materials that U.S. intelligence says Moscow stole and then shared via WikiLeaks and other online personas.

DAVIS: I think there's the general concern for some things that he seemed to predict. His tweets. The Podesta tweet, you know, has been a subject of much controversy all over the media and also puts him in a position to wonder how he was able to predict.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, Roger Stone has said he has not been contacted directly by Mueller's team, but it does give you an indication, Jake, that this investigation is charging forward, even if the American public agrees with Trump that it's about time to bring it to a close.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Sara Murray, thanks so much.

Let's talk about it with the experts here. Does it matter that the American people, a majority of them, Democrats, independents, Republicans, want Mueller to wrap this up by the midterms or is he just going to do what he thinks is right?

JOSH HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, it doesn't matter in terms of what Mueller is going to do. He can do whatever he wants to do.

I think as a political matter, it does have some significance. And we've talked about it a number of times on this panel about how this is actually one of the few thing that the American people across ideological lines agree on. And we may all have different views on how we'd like it to be resolved, but be it resolved is something that everybody sort of believes is something that should happen sooner rather than later.

I think that plays to the advantage of the president, who is the one that's continually saying we've got to wrap this thing up. But again, I don't think Bob Mueller's playing the public opinion game, right? So that's a whole different question.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, I don't agree with that, if I can just say. I mean he should take the time it takes to discover the truth, in my opinion. Now, the president's done a pretty good job, and Giuliani, of this kind of, why isn't it wrapped up already, which people vaguely kind of say, yes, I guess it seems like it's gone on a long time. People don't understand how difficult it has been (INAUDIBLE).

HOLMES: Well, 72 percent of them disagree with that. So it's not an inconsequential --

KRISTOL: Yes, and they're wrong. And they're wrong. No, and so the question then is -- but the good news for those of us who believe that the Mueller investigation needs to be left alone is that a clear majority of the public also believe that Trump shouldn't intervene and end it. So they kind of -- they resonate -- it resonates with Giuliani and Trump saying, gee, it should be over already, but they're not willing to go the next step and say, yes, we approve of the president ending it. I think he would pay a huge political price for that and I think that remains a deterrent to him. And to the point of view of Republican elected officials, I think they're willing to grumble a little, I wish it was over. They're not willing to say, yes, Mr. President, fire Bob Mueller.

TAPPER: And, Angela, I mean saying that to should be wrapped up is one thing. People might be tired of listening to it, tired of hearing about it. You support President Trump. Yu don't want the shadow of -- the cloud over it. But the poll shows that 77 percent of Republicans think the investigation is being done mainly to discredit Trump. I mean that's a really remarkable number to think that this Purple Heart recipient, Vietnam War hero --

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

TAPPER: Former FBI director is doing this to discredit the president.

RYE: It is a remarkable number, but it isn't when you think about what Donald Trump is normally saying to his base on Twitter, right? If Bob Mueller never had a reason to investigate Donald Trump for even the obstruction of justice piece, I feel like there might be tweets exhibits A through ZZ that can help him to demonstrate that case.

I think the other interesting part is, even the attacks on the attorney general, who recused himself, right, he's regularly attacking him for recusing himself.

TAPPER: Again today. Did it again today.

RYE: Did so still.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. Yes, did it today. Yes, Jeff Sessions, yes.

RYE: So it's just like, when you -- when you think about all of these things, a number of us desire for it to end, but not at all costs, right? I'm not -- I'm not trying to rush to the finish line, it's -- I do think it's funny that me wanting it to be done is the same thing as a Republican wanting to be done, but for completely different reasons.

KRISTOL: Yes.

TAPPER: So --

JEAN-PIERRE: And the -- and the numbers aren't surprising. We're hearing from one side. We're hearing from Rudy Giuliani on TV, Trump on Twitter. Of course people are -- the public is saying, yes, get it over it. Donald Trump is saying get it over with, right? Rudy Giuliani is saying, let's end this. And so that's not surprising at all.

[06:35:05] But I believe isn't there a number there, too, where, correct me if I'm wrong, in a CNN poll where it says like more than 70 percent of people say that they want Donald Trump to sit down?

TAPPER: It's funny you should mention it. Seventy percent of the people asked in our CNN poll asked think that President Trump should testify under oath if asked, 25 percent said he should not. I mean that's -- that's an overwhelming number. That includes Republicans, obviously.

JEAN-PIERRE: And he should.

RYE: Yes.

JEAN-PIERRE: And he should. If Donald Trump has nothing to hide, he should sit down with Robert Mueller.

RYE: Laugh (INAUDIBLE).

JEAN-PIERRE: No, but it's sort of like, like perjury is only when you're lying. It's not a trap. And so he should -- if he has nothing to hide, he should sit down with him. HOLMES: A political bait into a perjury charge (ph) right now.

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes.

HOLMES: I mean, look, I think he's got to take this in a very different context, although he's been reluctant to take it out of the political and take it into the legal when it comes to something like testifying. I mean that's an entirely different -- but just to put a bow on this, I think part of the reason, in addition to the campaign, that the president's been running against Bob Mueller, that the American people want this to be wrapped up, is the fact that we've gone through a year and a half where we've seen what Paul Manafort's done, we've seen what Rick Gates has done, we've seen what this whole host of characters who never should have been a part of government in the first place have done and --

TAPPER: Plus the 12 Russian military intelligence officials, of course.

HOLMES: And none of it, not a single lick of it goes back to the original charge for how this investigation --

KRISTOL: You have no idea whether that's true.

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we don't know.

KRISTOL: We have not seen any of the evidence.

HOLMES: Bill -- not -- Bill, not only do I have no idea, neither do you. And neither do the American people.

KRISTOL: Exactly. And that is why -- and that is why the investigation needs to continue.

JEAN-PIERRE: (INAUDIBLE) that's why it needs to continue. Absolutely.

HOLMES: Listen, I'm not calling for it to end. What I'm saying is --

KRISTOL: Well, what are you saying then?

HOLMES: The frustration of the American -- 72 percent of the American people -- the frustration is that we've gone through --

KRISTOL: They're not frustrated.

HOLMES: Well, you can look at a poll or not. Believe it or not.

JEAN-PIERRE: But they're only -- but they're only hearing Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani.

HOMES: But the end of the day -- no, no, no, they're not -- they're also hearing Bob Mueller.

JEAN-PIERRE: You know, they're not hearing from Robert Mueller.

HOLMES: They're also hearing Bob Mueller. JEAN-PIERRE: No, they're not.

KRISTOL: They're not hearing Bob Mueller.

HOLMES: Well, they're hearing the investigation. They're seeing --

KRISTOL: They're not hearing the investigation.

JEAN-PIERRE: They're (INAUDIBLE) Twitter every day. Rudy Giuliani is on TV every day.

TAPPER: All right, listen, this counts -- I think -- I think Josh's point is that they're seeing the results and they're -- so far the results have not shown any conspiracy between Trump people and Russians. That's what you're saying.

HOLMES: And we can -- and we can all conflate this, right, Bill? We can sit here and spend the entire day conflating what's happening to Paul Manafort with the Russia investigation.

KRISTOL: I'm not conflating anything. I'm just saying, let --

HOLMES: But you sure do.

KRISTOL: I'm saying let the --

HOLMES: You sure do.

JEAN-PIERRE: (INAUDIBLE) push-back.

KRISTOL: You think the Trump Tower meeting shows there was no contact at all between the Trump campaign and Russians?

RYE: Right, but we have -- yes.

HOLMES: I have no idea whether that's the subject of this investigation or not, and neither do you.

KRISTOL: The Trump Tower meeting is the subject of the investigation.

RYE: It absolutely is a subject.

JEAN-PIERRE: OK, but Josh -- Josh -- but, Josh -- but, Josh --

HOLMES: OK. Well, then let's see a charge on it, because I haven't seen one yet.

KRISTOL: Well, we'll see a charge when it's (INAUDIBLE) to bring it, because we have a legal system. We don't bring it because, oh, people are getting a little frustrated, I'm going to bring a charge.

Well, what do you think? You really think this is the way you think the legal system should work? A majority of observers --

HOLMES: Bill -- Bill, I mean -- KRISTOL: A majority of observers -- a majority of observers get impatient and a serious prosecutor and a serious set of prosecutors at the Department of Justice is supposed to say, OK, we'll hop to it. And before we get all the evidence, we'll bring a charge.

HOLMES: Bill, I am -- I am simply analyzing why 72 percent of the American people feel that this should be over. I'm not making an impassioned key case as you seem to be making about the Department of Justice.

RYE: But you're talking about -- that's right, you were talking about -- you were --

TAPPER: Well, let Angela -- Angela, go ahead.

KRISTOL: I am making an impassioned case because I think the Department of Justice has behaved admirably in this case.

RYE: Bill, really quick, really quick, really quick --

HOLMES: Well, there's court TV down the road if you want to hit up on that.

TAPPER: Angela.

RYE: Josh, you mentioned conflation. I want to just bring up the fact that there are three investigations. There's the Mueller investigation. There are two committees on The Hill, the House and the Senate, looking at this. So the piece about the Russian meeting was more a part of The Hill investigation. I think that's important. But we don't know about the Mueller investigation.

Again, that 72 percent is a bipartisan number of people who want this investigation to end, but it's not for the same reasons. It's not because we believe in exonerating Donald Trump.

TAPPER: What do you -- what do you think the -- I want to put up the tweet that Angela was referring to, if we had a real attorney general, President Trump tweeted just this morning, this witch hunt would never have been started. He's calling his own -- he's insulting his own attorney general as not real.

JEAN-PIERRE: His buddy, right, his buddy, Jeff Sessions, who's actually --

TAPPER: The first guy in the Senate to endorse him.

JEAN-PIERRE: Exactly, first guy, who was actually --

RYE: Way to go, Jeff.

JEAN-PIERRE: Right. Who's actually at Department of Justice -- the head of Department of Justice is actually doing everything that Trump wants, which is also kind of wild as well.

But, look, you have to look at the numbers. There are five people who have pleaded guilty and all five of them are connected to Donald Trump. You know, there are numbers here that you cannot play with, that you can't ignore --

HOLMES: But this is not -- this is what I'm talking about.

JEAN-PIERRE: That we see that's coming out of this.

HOLMES: I agree, but this is what I'm talking about, because you -- what -- you're right, you're absolutely right, the five are that five people have pled guilty to something that is not the subject for the entire investigation. The Mueller -- and the Mueller --

JEAN-PIERRE: We don't know that, Josh. You don't know that.

HOLMES: What do you mean? I do know that the charges were brought and the guilt was given (ph).

TAPPER: Nothing specifically related to conspiracy, though their topics were --

(CROSS TALK)

RYE: Josh, if you could acknowledge if the roles are reversed during the Obama administration and five people with not tangential but direct connections to President Obama, you wouldn't be saying the same thing we're saying right now?

HOLMES: You will not get me to defend all of this. I will not defend it.

RYE: I wasn't trying to make you defend it. Connect it.

HOLMES: I will defend the fact that thus far the Mueller investigation has not proven what its charter was set out to prove.

[06:39:59] TAPPER: All right, we have to take a commercial break right here. I don't think we're going to resolve this right now.

RYE: (INAUDIBLE).

TAPPER: Did no one learn from Scott Pruitt's problems? A top Pentagon official facing some of the same issues that took down the former EPA administration. This CNN exclusive you'll see first on THE LEAD right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: And now we're bringing you a CNN exclusive.

A senior Pentagon aide is under investigation for allegedly using her staff for personal errands, from fetching her dry cleaning and lunch, to picking up her pantyhose and then allegedly retaliating against anyone who complained. Four sources familiar with the probe tells CNN that the Defense Department's inspector general has been investigating Dana White for several weeks. Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon for us and she's bringing us this story. [06:45:04] Barbara, what are your sources telling you happened here?

BARBARA STARR, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Jake, of course the first thing we want to say is this investigation and it is an investigation is ongoing. There have been no final conclusions. There are no conclusions that Dana White violated yet any procedures or policies of the ethics rules of the Department of Defense. But she is under investigation because several employees complained to the Inspector General and others that they were inappropriately transferred out of their jobs by her and her office after they complained that they were being used to conduct personal business, personal errands for her here in the Pentagon.

So inappropriate use of staff, it is not permitted to use them for your personal business and then being retaliated against. That is the allegation. She has not commented on this but a -- her deputy gave CNN a statement saying "this is an ongoing review about which we cannot comment." But here's what our sources are telling us. Some of the allegations they have made against her is that she used her personal staff to -- in her office to get her dry cleaning, to buy her pantyhose, to work on mortgage paperwork, to get lunch and snacks for her, and in one case to drive her to the office when it was snowing here in Washington. She actually reimbursed someone for that after being told again that this was not ethically permissible under the rules of the Department of Defense.

The Ethics rules are very stringent. You cannot use your people to conduct your personal business. No indication that Defense Secretary James Mattis knew about any of this and it's worth noting Jim Mattis, you often see him in the hallways at the Pentagon. He goes and picks up his own dry-cleaning. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us. Joining me now to discuss this is CNN Military and Diplomatic Analysts of Rear Admiral John Kirby. He served as both the Pentagon and the State Department Spokesman during the Obama years. What do you make of this?

JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes, look it's if they're true, these are not insignificant allegations. I was particularly troubled by the retaliation against people whistleblowers or folks that she felt were reporting on her. That's the worst of it. But even just the personal errands and picking her up and that kind of -- that's just absolutely completely forbidden. You can't do that as a senior official in the Pentagon.

TAPPER: Now, do you see this as somebody who worked in the prior administration and you had several different -- you worked under Secretary of State John Kerry, you worked Under Secretary of Defense Hagel among others, do you see this is something that is set at the top in terms of the culture by the secretary or even by the President or is it just an individual's responsibility?

KIRBY: It can be set by the top leader. I don't believe that if this is true that that's the case there. I mean, Secretary Mattis is extremely ethical, everything that he does. I can't believe for a minute that he would be setting any kind of a tone at the Pentagon that would permit this sort of misbehavior. So oftentimes though what you see, Jake, and I saw it as an Admiral in the Navy, some people they just get a little bit enamored of their rank they feel like they deserve some of these perks and privileges and it's easy to slide into it like you know, somebody who offers to get you lunch on one day and then the next week it's a little easier to let them do it again and then finally maybe even ask them.

So a lot of times these officials, they're briefed. They understand what the rules are. They just find them so sort of easing into that kind of behavior.

TAPPER: And is the issue here that they are military officials doing this work? They are government officials, federal government officials.

KIRBY: That's right.

KIRBY: It's a violation of the trust and confidence that the taxpayers are putting into you to behave in such a way and to use the resources that are being applied to help you do your job in the -- in an ethical and very transparent way. So having somebody go do a personal errand for you, that's not their job. Their official function is to maybe help you with your scheduling. That doesn't mean that they can be used for personal errands.

TAPPER: What do you think Secretary Mattis is saying about this as he's known he's somebody who has a reputation for being extremely ethical decades in military and now civilian life, somebody known as having almost a monastic existence, what do you what do you anticipate?

KIRBY: I can't believe that he will want this taken as seriously as possible. I also can't believe that he is disturbed by this. I would imagine that he's quite unnerved by it. And then I think knowing Mattis the way I do he'll let this play out he won't get involved and whatever the investigation says then he'll make his decisions. I also would tend to believe that if the allegations are proven particularly the whistleblower ones that it would be hard for him to you know, keep Miss White in the job.

TAPPER: Yes, as you know, the most disturbing thing out of all of this is the idea that there's retaliation. You certainly can understand somebody giving her a ride and maybe that's gets -- that gets blown into something it isn't, but people complaining and then and then retaliation is unacceptable. John Kirby, thanks so much.

[16:50:00] In our other "NATIONAL LEAD" today. Another firefighter has tragically been killed as California burns. Fire officials say Matthew Burchette from Utah was killed battling the biggest wildfire in California's history. The 42-year-old leaves behind a wife and a young son.

That fire, that Mendocino Complex fire north of San Francisco has been burning for more than two weeks now torching an area the size of Los Angeles, destroying about 150 homes. Six firefighters in all have now been killed battling the three largest fires in California trying to save these families and everything they have. Four civilians have also been killed.

President Trump's former campaign chair finally speaks in court hours before the jury could get his case. What did Paul Manafort say? That's next

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: Closing arguments starts tomorrow morning in the case against former Trump Campaign Chair Paul Manafort. The defense rested today without calling a single witness. But we did hear from Manafort himself for the first time during the two-week long trial. Shimon -- CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is live outside the courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia. Shimon, what did Manafort have to say and how unusual is this approach defense resting with no witnesses?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Jake, court just recessed for the day here. Obviously a lot of activity here. The Manafort team deciding that they're not going to put on any witnesses. They're not going to mount any of their own witnesses in. They're not going to bring anyone in. Paul Manafort is not going to take the stand. While it's not uncommon but it's quite unusual at least for a defense team not to put on any witnesses. I mean, just think about it, Paul Manafort after this two-week trial and overwhelming evidence from the prosecution there will be no witnesses that are going to be appearing here on behalf of Paul Manafort.

Now, once the defense decided that they were not going to be putting any witnesses forward, the judge then wanted to ask questions of Paul Manafort. He asked him to stand and he went to the podium or where the judge asked them if this is what in fact he wanted to do, if in fact he did not want to testify and this is how the exchange went.

The judge asked him if he was satisfied with his lawyers. He said he was. He asked him if he discussed testifying with his lawyers. Manafort replied I have your honor. The judge then asked him if he was happy with his lawyers and Manafort simply said yes, that he was happy with them. And then the judge asked him if he made any decisions about whether he wanted to testify. Paul Manafort said I have decided and then simply said, no sir. Meaning that he did not want to testify and then Paul Manafort went back to his seat and with that, the judge has now ordered that summations closing arguments will begin tomorrow.

TAPPER: All right, Shimon Prokupecz, thanks so much. We have breaking news in our "NATIONAL LEAD." An explosive report alleging a cover-up of Catholic priests sex abuses dating back decades. A grand jury in Pennsylvania just issued its report. It found evidence of more than 300 predator priests all accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 child victims and that's just the witnesses that came forward. CNN's Jean Casarez joins me now. And Jean, the Catholic Church has anticipated for weeks. Now that it's out, the details are incredibly disturbing.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely amazing. You know, Jake, grand jurors say the pattern is pretty much the same. The philosophy was not to help children but to avoid scandal. Grand jurors say in the report that "avoiding scandal appears over and over again in the documents that we recovered and they reviewed over 500,000 internal church documents. These 884-page report took two years. It was written by 23 Pennsylvania grand jurors who listened to testimony from dozens of witnesses and listen to those documents and read them alleging child sex abuse in six dioceses in Pennsylvania.

Credible allegations were found as you say, guest, more than 300 priests, more than 1,000 child victims were identifiable but it is truly believed that the numbers are in the thousands of victims. Most of the victims were boys, but girls were also victims. Some were teens, some were much younger. Some victims were manipulated with alcohol or pornography. The abuse is far too graphic to describe in detail but here's just one example. A priest sexually assaulted a little girl as he was visiting her in the hospital after she had her tonsils out.

Grand jurors found that church leaders in every part of the state preferred to protect the abusers and their institutions above all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSH SHAPIRO, ATTORNEY GENERAL, PENNSYLVANIA: They wanted to cover up the cover-up. They sought to do the same thing that senior church leaders in the diocese we investigated have done for decades, bury the sexual abuse by priests upon children and cover it up forever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CASAREZ: And Jake, the report also describes a priest who quit after being the subject of many child abuse complaints but he asked for and received according to this report a letter of recommendation for work at Disneyland.

TAPPER: And, Jean, since some of the cases are old and cannot be prosecuted, is anyone from the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania taking responsibility?

CASAREZ: Well, actually, the grand jury has two presentments as they call them in Pennsylvania for two priests that are within the statute of limitations but the grand jury say they want to change laws because there were victims in the 80s that remember being sexually assaulted and that's just too long ago for these priests if they would be alive to be prosecuted.

TAPPER: All right, Jean Casarez, thanks so much. Our coverage continues with Jim Sciutto. He is right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thank you for watching. We'll see you tomorrow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Happening now, breaking news, no guarantee.