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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

"Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin Dead at Age 76. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired August 16, 2018 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:00]

TAPPER: ...for Robert Mueller, at least for right now.

The real reason was Russia. President Trump again admitting a move against the former CIA director is directly tied to his disdain for the Russia investigation. Did he just open yet another door for the special counsel?

New today, Omarosa drops another tape claiming a member of President Trump's family offered her hush money. Plus pitch perfect, a royal divide of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, the voice a country needed and the voice that none of us will ever forget. Bonnie Raitt, who shared the stage with the Queen of Soul, will join us to share her memories.

Welcome to The Lead, everyone. I'm Jake Tapper. We begin this afternoon with the politics lead in a stunning point blank admission by President Trump about why he revoked ex-CIA director John Brennan's security clearance and why he's considering revoking the clearances of nine other former and current Obama and Trump administration national security officials. In an impromptu interview with the Wall Street Journal, President Trump directly tied his view and disdain for the Russia investigation to removing security clearances, quote, "I call it the rigged witch hunt. It is a sham and these people led it. So, I think it's something that had to be done."

He added, quote, "I think that they're very duplicitous. I think they're not good people." Of course, just yesterday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders offered this excuse for revoking Brennan's clearance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: Any benefits that senior officials might glean from consultations with Mr. Brennan are now outweighed by the risk posed by his erratic conduct and behavior. The President has a constitutional responsibility to protect classified information and who has access to it and that's what he's doing.

(VIDEO CLIP ENDS)

TAPPER: So, despite the best efforts of the White House staff to act as if this decision was about protecting classified information, President Trump made it clear it was actually about punishing one of his fiercest critics. It's just the latest example of President Trump openly contradicting an explanation concocted, frankly, and then offered by his advisers. He did this when his White House claimed that FBI director James Comey had been fired because of his mishandling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Hours after that, the President said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, "You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story."

(VIDEO CLIP ENDS)

TAPPER: It's an awful lot of Russia on the mind. CNN's Jeff Zeleny is at the White House, and, Jeff, President Trump refusing to answer any questions today about the revoking of clearances during that cabinet meeting.

ZELENY: Jake, he did and it was an hour long cabinet meeting, the President talking about a variety of issues but not explaining or defending the actions yesterday. Now, the White House still insists he was not trying to settle political scores but did not explain the contradiction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, is it a program to punish your critics?

ZELENY: President Trump folding his arms and biting his tongue today, not answering questions about his retaliation against former CIA director John Brennan who's blasted him as unfit for office. At an hour-long cabinet meeting...

TRUMP: The past administration, I won't say who...

ZELENY: ...the President not mentioning or explaining the decision to revoke Brennan's security clearance and review those of nine other critics.

But Brennan, the intelligence chief under President Obama, who served the administrations of both parties, is firing back. In the New York Times op-ed, Brennan writing, "Mr. Trump clearly has become more desperate to protect himself and those close to him, which is why he made the politically motivated decision to revoke my security clearance in an attempt to scare and to silence others who may dare to challenge him."

"As for the Russia investigation," Brennan added, "Mr. Trump's claims of no collusion are, in a word, hogwash. He pointed to this moment from two summers ago when candidate Trump said this.

TRUMP: I will tell you this. Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.

ZELENY: That same day, Russians attempted to hack into Hillary Clinton's server according to documents in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. A day after White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced the security clearance move...

SANDERS: Consultations with Mr. Brennan are now outweighed by the risks posed by his erratic conduct and behavior.

ZELENY: And she sat silent at the cabinet meeting. Neither her nor any administration officials spoke about the decision today. The President contradicted the claim that it was simply an effort to protect national security, telling The Wall Street Journal the Russia investigation was on his mind. "I call it the rigged witch hunt. It is a sham and these people led it," the President told the paper, "So, I think it's something that had to be done."

It's an unprecedented move praised by some Republicans while also criticized by national security officials of both parties.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought it was just kind of a Banana Republic kind of thing and I don't like it. I think it's inappropriate.

(VIDEO CLIP ENDS)

[16:05:00]

TAPPER: And, Jake, we're also getting word from another former top commander, the commander who oversaw the raid -- the bin Laden raid, Admiral McRaven. He is a friend of John Brennan and he said, "Mr. President, please revoke my security clearance, too." He said, "It would be an honor to be on the list with John Brennan."

Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny at the White House. Thanks so much.

Let's discuss this all, Bill. Let's talk about Admiral McRaven. He's an American hero. He was in charge of special ops during the bin Laden raid and in an open letter to President Trump The Washington Post just published, he says to President Trump, quote, "I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well. Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and worst of all, divided us as a nation." That's a remarkable rebuke from Admiral McRaven who has really not weighed in to politics much at all.

KRISTOL: When he left the military, he became chancellor of the University of Texas I think for four years. Stayed out of politics in 2016 when I was looking around for distinguished Americans to save the country from the choice of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I talked to Jim Mattis, for example. I actually directly tried to get in contact with Will McRaven and he was sort of, "I'm not into elective politics" and that was striking.

And I think what he says in the open letter that he hoped that the President would rise to the occasion. I remember that that was the case in December, January 2016. I don't think he was not one of those who thought necessarily that Trump would be a disaster. He was pleased I think by the appointment of Mattis and others. And I think that he generally hoped that this President would turn out better and he has.

TAPPER: But, Mary Katherine, once again, here we have President Trump. I mean, the administration comes up with an excuse, this is why Brennan's security clearance was revoked. They couldn't point any secrets that he had shared inappropriately, but they said that they're worried about his erratic behavior. And then, just hours later, President Trump says he undermines the whole thing, "I did it because of the Russia investigation."

HAM: Of course, because I think he wants people to know. That's why he did it. There's no particular plan in any of these and he's vindictive and he's letting people know that, and does anyone really believe that Brennan would have lost his security clearance if he was not talking junk on Twitter about President Trump? Like, it's hard to believe.

A security clearance is a privilege. It's not a right. They can be taken away. I think in some cases, you can make the argument that they should. But this is obviously an attack based on the speech of people they're taking on.

TAPPER: We should point out just because people ask -- I see a lot of people on social media -- why does it matter to have a security clearance or not. It's actually for the benefit of the current administration more so or at least as much as it is for the individual so that, for instance, John Brennan was in the CIA for decades. He has expertise on a whole number of things having to do with Afghanistan and Pakistan.

If the director of the CIA comes to him and says, "I need to use your expertise," he's allowed to have that conversation. That's the reason.

HENDERSON: Yes. I mean there was this vast institutional knowledge the folks on that list had. I think somebody added it all up. It's something like 200 years just in terms of their service to the country and then the knowledge they have and you're right.

I mean, if something came up where they would want to bring in one of these people, Brennan for instance, to look at some classified information and give his opinion, that is the purpose of these security clearances. It's not like John Brennan every day is getting these briefings and reading classified information. None of these people really are.

I think what will be interesting is, is this going to be sort of a drip, drip, drip, right? There are like six or seven other people on this list, people like Sally Yates, people like Susan Rice. Do they kind of roll these announcements out about taking people's security clearances? So, I think it was pretty clear that yesterday they really wanted to change the subject from Omarosa or do they have these other plans to revoke security clearances in a similar way.

TAPPER: And, Kirsten, take a listen to Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana talking about Brenna. A lot of people on Capitol Hill, a lot of Republicans support what the President did.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: It's totally political, I think I called him a butthead and I meant it. I think he's giving the national intelligence community a bad name. I'd like to know why when he and his agency picked up the Russians were interfering -- or trying to interfere in our elections, he didn't do anything about it. I would be appalled if the current CIA wanted to consult with Mr. Brennan.

(VIDEO CLIP ENDS)

TAPPER: So, Senator Kennedy referring to John Brennan as totally political, a butthead, basically saying that he would be appalled if the current CIA director Haspel wanted to consult with him.

POWERS: Right. But I think the problem here is that these are people who have been generally respected across the aisle, taking out people who -- I think Susan Rice is a controversial person but I don't think necessarily James Clapper or John Brennan is somebody who is seen as being overly political.

And as James Clapper said in an interview I think it was last night with Andrew or with Chris Cuomo was that they feel a need to speak out for a reason, that there is something different happening and in the past, they haven't spoken out because they actually feel that there is an attack on democracy. And so, that's why they're speaking out. And I think that Donald Trump realizes that they're credible people.

[16:10:00]

It's not just some left-wing activist or some people or the media who he's already attacked as being untrustworthy. I think these are people that are seen as trustworthy and seen as trustworthy among Republicans. And maybe he thought this would help -- would silence Brennan, though it's obviously not going to.

TAPPER: Although, Brennan said in his New York Times op-ed responding to the President, "There was collusion. Just the question is whether or not it was -- it rises to the level of criminal conspiracy." He's still out there. This certainly hasn't done anything to quiet him.

HAM: Right. No. And I don't think it will and it's right for them to say that it won't, to encourage other people that they should not react in that way who might be a threat in the future. I will say the casting of Brennan and Clapper is perfectly faintly -- is not a perfect rendition of the record because both of them admittedly misled Congress and the American people about spying on Congress and spying on the American people. So, I do think that's something to keep in mind, but this is not why the clearance was revoked, and that's pretty clear. Trump has made that very clear.

KRISTOL: What's interesting about it there is a way if someone really is a security risk who has had a clearance, there are ways to revoke it as you would expect. This government has done that. There's a big bureaucratic process. They clearly didn't go through that this time. There's no recommendation from the CIA, from the DNI, from the FBI counter intelligence.

TAPPER: No. It came from President Trump.

KRISTOL: It came from -- and if you look at this statement, he says something "By my constitutional authority, I'm revoking this." That I think lays the predicate for him to say there may be bureaucratic procedures in how to do these things, but I do have this Article II, which he may have, Presidential authority to remove people, remove clearances and stuff and I think that's an interesting question for Mueller.

Because one of the interesting minor debates going on, on the side of the Mueller thing is would he have to be removed by the Deputy Attorney General which is the current Justice Department regulations and that's why the whole thing about Sessions and Rosenstein has become so interesting or from the President as President just reach in and say goodbye.

And I think the precedent that the President is setting here is that he gets to fire Mueller directly.

TAPPER: Yes.

POWERS: But the counselor just say that I don't think -- I certainly didn't mean to imply that...

(CROSSTALK)

POWERS: No. But the point is that they're respected in the same way John McCain who I have also disagreements with is a respected person. And so, you would expect people to behave respectfully.

TAPPER: Somebody that people listen to.

POWERS: Yes.

TAPPER: All right. Stick around. We have a lot more to talk. But coming up, Omarosa drops yet another secret recording, we'll dig in to what's on the latest tape, plus, remembering music royalty, the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, who stepped in for opera singer Luciano Pavarotti at the 1998 Grammys and brought down the house. We'll talk to Bonnie Raitt about her special relationship with Aretha Franklin, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:17:11] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A voice so powerful, so demanding, so inspirational, the "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin died today at the age of 76. Her voice was iconic not only because it could move people to the dance floor or to tears but because it helped move this nation in the direction of social change from the dark days when people were fighting for civil rights to today. Those who she influenced today are paying her respects.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TAPPER (voice-over): She performed for popes and presidents and kings. Aretha Franklin born into poverty in the Jim Crow South in 1942 defied the odds to become a legendary voice of empowerment for those too often silenced. Franklin provided the soul stirring music that helped carry Martin Luther King Jr. and his family through the worst moments.

ARETHA FRANKLIN, SINGER/SONGWRITER: I was behind Dr. King and I was a very young girl.

TAPPER: Today, civil rights icon and longtime congressman, John Lewis, expressed his gratitude.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: We have lost one of the great spirits of our time. Aretha inspired all of us with her unbelievable capacity and ability to make us smile, to dance, to be happy.

TAPPER: Her demand for respect in 1967 became a rallying cry for women worldwide. The hit was perhaps fittingly an adaptation of a man's lyrics. Franklin's revisions to Otis Reddings words now iconic.

FRANKLIN: He didn't say that. I thought I should spell it out.

TAPPER: Franklin seemed fearless as she created unofficial anthems for all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would you do if you forget a lyric?

FRANKLIN: I keep stepping.

TAPPER: Her career-defining swagger inspired fans to find their own confidence.

FRANKLIN: Hey.

TAPPER: When America's first black president took an oath to lead the nation, her voice again provided the sound track.

Barack Obama was the third president to request her presence at his inaugural. The reaction to her house-shaking national anthem at the 1992 Democratic Convention perhaps summed it up best.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If that didn't make you patriotic, nothing will.

[16:20:00] TAPPER: The "Queen of Soul" earned her crown by scoring 20 number one hits on the Billboard R&B charts.

But if you call Aretha Franklin a diva, take note of her definition.

FRANKLIN: My definition of a diva would be singers who give back to the community, who tithe to their churches, who are supportive in any way that they can be outside of theatrics.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Joining me now, a legendary singer in her own right, ten-time Grammy Award winner Bonnie Raitt.

Bonnie, thanks so much for joining us.

You had a special relationship with Aretha Franklin personally and professionally. Tell us about it.

BONNIE RAITT, LEGENDARY SINGER/GRAMMY AWARD WINNER (via telephone): Thank you, Jake.

Yes, it's a sad day for us. But I'm just remembering with lots of friends on social media and on phone calls how many people whose lives she touched. And for me, I was 16 or so when I first heard her. Those first two albums of hers "I Never Loved a Man" and "Lady Soul" completely influenced my singing and my style as well as my feelings of what it was to be a woman, a young woman and learn about men and about heartache and about resilience and respect.

I mean, she has been such a role model for me that when I finally got the chance to meet her years later, I was like a -- like a little kid because it really was like being with royalty. I mean, she was a very dignified, reserved person. Sure, she had a playful side.

But for me, to be able to sing with her a couple of duet for a big special that we did in 1993, an all star special, was just a highlight, you know, among one of the memories that I will always take with me. She was an incredible inspiration.

TAPPER: You told "Rolling Stone" magazine, quote: I never heard anybody like Aretha in my life. In her voice, you can hear the redemption, and the pain, the yearning and the surrender all at the same time.

And that soulful voice and all that she conjured forth, that wasn't an act. That was her.

RAITT: Absolutely. And I think the authenticity and the raw passion of when you dig that deep whether in pain or yearning and love or in her case, it was informed so much by her gospel roots, you know? The fact that she was dipping into a well of spirit and surrender that was so holy and so powerful and, you know, like Ray Charles, to bring the church into popular music like that, as a young person in all my life, every time she opens her mouth, the realness and passion comes through, every emotion is unveiled. And so, that has really informed so much of what I love about her and what I feel when I'm singing.

TAPPER: This is going to be a very tough question. But is there one specific song or performance that you think about the most? I don't want to say favorite because there are too many to pick from, but one that you really think about when you think about her.

RAITT: Well, that is -- it's a tough one because it would be hard to turn down "Respect". But I would have to say "I Never Loved A Man The Way That I Loved You" was the song and is the song that I go back to when I want to really get a deep dish of Aretha.

TAPPER: That's a beautiful song. Thank you so much, Bonnie Raitt. Wonderful talking to you. Sorry

about your friend.

RAITT: Thank you, Jake. Thanks so much. We'll just keep celebrating in her music.

TAPPER: Indeed.

RAITT: All right.

TAPPER: Remembering music royalty, the "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:28:40] TAPPER: In our politics lead today, Omarosa Manigault Newman trying to steal back the spotlight from President Trump, releasing yet another tape today, this time it features the president's daughter in law, Laura Trump, wife of Eric Trump, and an advisor on the Trump reelection campaign, a conversation that happened after Omarosa was fired from the White House, Lara Trump is on tape trying to bring her on board the campaign which would, of course, require that she never criticize the president which she had hinted after she was fired she might do.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

LARA TRUMP: You sound a little like, obviously, that there are some things you've got in the back pocket to pull out. Clearly, if you come on board the campaign, like, we can't have -- we got to --

OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Oh, god, No.

TRUMP: -- everybody positive, right?

(END AUDIO CLIP)\

TAPPER: Now, it's not clear to us whether it's in the same conversation or in a different conversation but there is also this tape of Lara Trump talking salary with Omarosa for this campaign job.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: We are talking about like 15K a month. Let me see what that adds up to. Times 12. Yes, that's $180,000. Does that sound like a fair deal for you?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: Let's talk about all of this -- $180,000 for a job that when you listen to the description doesn't sound like that much work.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, it sounds like pretty much a no show job, you can fly here, you can stay in New York, you can go, whatever it is. You imagine if you are Omarosa, you are thinking really? $180,000 was

her salary at the White House, but she's -- you know, I mean, if she's got stuff in her back pocket, as Lara Trump is hinting at, and she hinted at in that "New York Times" article, she could make --