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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Omarosa Releases Tape of Lara Trump Offering Campaign Job; Kellyanne Calls Her Husband's Anti-Trump Tweets Disrespectful; Gov. Cuomo: America Was Never That Great; Report: 30,000 ISIS Fighters Still In Syria And Iraq. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired August 16, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: You imagine if you are Omarosa, you are thinking really? $180,000 was her salary at the White House.

[16:30:06] 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 a lot of money, which she is doing right now probably with this book. She can do a reality TV.

So, I mean, I imagine she is thinking this is a low ball offer. This is all you got, $15,000 to keep me silent? And she I'm sure knows that she can get much more on the open market.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Haggling over the price.

BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: She should have consulted with you. I'm getting you as my agent.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: She is so offended that they would want to pay her hush money. And, you know, it's like please, give me a break.

HENDERSON: Right.

POWERS: She is completely untrustworthy.

TAPPER: Omarosa?

POWERS: Omarosa is completely untrustworthy. She is running a circus. She's pulling the media into her circus that is no big surprise because the master ring leader of the circus is Donald Trump.

So, there is no big surprise that this is coming from somebody that he hired. If I ever hired Omarosa which would never happen, but if I lost my mind for five minutes and I hired Omarosa, and she had to leave, I would try to find her a job. I would try to do something -- this is not --

HENDERSON: Maybe more than $15,000.

TAPPER: Fifteen thousand dollars a month. Let's be clear.

POWERS: There is nothing unusual about this. There is nothing unethical about it. It is just smart business.

TAPPER: Although, can I say? you are talking about Omarosa acting offended. You know who is acting offended and I believe is very offended is Lara Trump.

She released the statement responding and saying in part: Woman to woman, I shared a connection with Omarosa as a friend and a campaign sister. And I am absolutely shocked and saddened by her betrayal and violation on a deeply personal level. I hope it is all worth it for you, Omarosa, because some things you just can't put a price on.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, on the words of ever reality TV star ever, she's not here to make friends and she's here to make something else.

(LAUGHTER)

HAM: And look if you create an administration of reality show villains, you will have an administration of reality show villains. It's literally what she sis. And she is playing that role.

I do think the conversation is sort of so obvious. It's almost sort of like comical. It's like, you know, everybody stay positive. Of course.

It's a little bit Monty python, like wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

TAPPER: Yes.

HAM: I just think, they should be more practiced at this at the very least.

TAPPER: First time, it's tragedy. Second time is farce. Third time is bad dinner theater.

Bill, I want to ask you about this because this is the job Lara Trump is describing. I want to ask you as a campaign veteran how common this sounds to you.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

LARA TRUMP: I really feel like your position would require you to be able to be flexible in terms of where you are. Sometimes, you know, come to New York for occasional meetings. But I would love, if you could, you know, occasionally go to these speaking engagements and sort of thing for us. I think you'd be awesome doing that.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: A hundred and eighty thousand dollars for that? That seems like a lot of money.

KRISTOL: Yes, and that's money, of course, that people are contributing to the RNC and it's something Lara Trump says. She said were most of the small dollar donation. So, they are sending direct mail to people who are Trump supporters I suppose and telling them, emergency, dire straits, you got to fight the Democrats, send in your $25. People do go for that. It's really --

POWERS: But do you really think any of them would care about this? I mean, I don't -- it's like anything Donald Trump, they'd be like, oh I know they'll have to do that. We have to take care of Omarosa.

KRISTOL: You think somebody on the other side not just Lara Trump. There's a whole apparatus that runs the RNC. There's a chair of the RNC.

TAPPER: It does add up. I mean, $180,000 --

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: That's fine. And Ronna McDaniels signs these fundraising letters and everyone is fine, suddenly giving $15,000 --

TAPPER: It's half a million dollars over three years, right? And she's not the only one being paid. Keith Schiller, the former bodyguard, security guy for Donald Trump is also being paid. There are probably other people we don't even know about.

HENDERSON: Yes, I think that's right. And you hear her talking about this. You know, all of this will be public so this is all we can get away with paying you without looking really, really shady. You know, again, if you are Omarosa, you probably know you can make much more and that's exactly what she did.

I mean, Omarosa -- and Donald Trump said this to Omarosa at one point during "The Apprentice", he says to her that Omarosa, you made me a star, right?

TAPPER: Because she was in what? The first three seasons or just the first.

HENDERSON: She was in the first season. She was in three all together, like 2007 and 2013, just, you know, a guess.

(LAUGHTER)

KRISTOL: Are you sure you didn't represent her? I mean --

HENDERSON: She is aware of her star power. I'm sure she is like, really, Lara Trump, you just sort of came to the party. You know, I think she meets Eric Trump in 2007 or something. Omarosa has been in the Trump orbit since 2003 and very much responsible I think for Trump's rise.

POWERS: She's not really that relevant until again, until she came into the White House. So, it kind of works both ways.

And this is a person who is going around recording her friends, people that she says she supports. This is really awful behavior. And I think there is an invasion of privacy that is going on here and that we're kind of complicit in because --

TAPPER: Because we are playing the tapes? POWERS: Because we're playing the tapes and a lot of them don't

matter, right? It doesn't really matter. Even like the Katrina Pearson tape when Jason Miller -- in the end, it's like, did we learn anything? They were all speculating about something. They don't really know.

We already heard about the tape long before she came along. Nothing is actually came --

TAPPER: Katrina Pierson saying in that tape that the president said it and he's embarrassed.

POWERS: But she didn't know that he said. She's speculating. She's not saying I heard, I was there. It happened. She's just speculating.

This is a call that anyone who has worked on a campaign has a million calls like this. And I just don't -- I just think --

TAPPER: If you want to cruciate on Omarosa, let me play another sound byte for you. This is an interview done this week. No, I think you'll enjoy this in an awful way. This is Omarosa doing an interview talking about her conversation with Lara Trump way back when.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANIGAULT NEWMAN: She was very cavalier about it. She is like maybe you could do some interviews or maybe you could some speeches. You know, you're very articulate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She used that word?

MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said you are articulate?

MANIGAULT NEWMAN: You're so articulate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have known you for a while. Did you find that all offensive?

MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Most people wouldn't realize that is an insult to African-Americans to call us articulate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: I mean, role reversal for Omarosa, right? I mean, she had been the person on this campaign, and if you talk about in her book, she's the person who basically Donald Trump can point to and say, see, I'm not a racist because I have been nice to Omarosa, right? I mean, that was her role in the campaign.

HAM: Katrina Pierson --

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: Yes, Katrina Pierson talked about it. I mean, that was their role in the campaign.

TAPPER: Some people took the advice.

HENDERSON: Now she is basically throwing shade on Lara Trump saying she is making this sort of racially charged remark saying that she's articulate, and obviously making these charges about Donald Trump --

POWERS: And passing herself as a civil rights hero.

HENDERSON: Right.

POWERS: Right? You know what I mean? And who is so concerned about racism and misogyny and all these other things. It's just -- it's absurd.

TAPPER: OK, put you down for one vote.

All right. Everyone, stick around.

Coming up next, the complaints Kellyanne Conway made about her marriage when trying to be an anonymous source close to their relationship talking to a "Washington Post" reporter. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:41:42] TAPPER: In our politics lead, a striking glimpse into the life of one of President Trump's most prominent advisers, as well as a look into the divisions that are causing such angst in some corners of the Republican Party.

Counselor to the president, Kellyanne Conway, and her husband allowing a "Washington Post" reporter into their home where she assails her husband's anti-Trump tweets, calling them respectful and a possible violation of their marriage vows. Her husband, noted conservative attorney George Conway, standing his ground as to the importance of law and order and truth and decency.

CNN's Tom Foreman takes a closer look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As power couples go, Kellyanne Conway and her husband George have something of a short circuit, both are conservative but while she is the president's fiercest defender --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no den she will not go into.

FOREMAN: -- he is a sharp Trump critic. Now, "The Washington Post" scored a rare behind the scenes look at their split level home life.

BEN TERRIS, POLITICS REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: He told me that, you know, she rolls her eyes at the tweets and her life would be easier if he wasn't criticizing her boss.

FOREMAN: Criticizing?

George Conway routinely savages the business man-turned-politician. Just this week tweeting: What if a CEO routinely made false and misleading statements about himself, the company and results and publicly attacked business partners, employees and kowtow to a dangerous competitor?

When the president called Ohio Governor John Kasich unpopular, Conway posted a poll showing Buckeyes think much less of Trump. He has trolled the president over his clashes with political foes and the press over his fallen allies and his lies.

His wife told CNN's Dana Bash last spring --

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: He writes a lot of things that are supportive and he writes a lot of things about corgis and Philadelphia Eagles and sports, too.

FOREMAN: But to the "Washington Post" she said: It is disrespectful, a violation of basic decency certainly if not marital vows. "The Post" says she quickly tried to have her words attributed to a person familiar with their relationship.

TERRIS: So, she said that and she kind of tried to weasel her way out of it. But, you know, I just printed it.

FOREMAN: Her husband, a lawyer, introduced her to Trump and now says he regrets it. He was once reportedly considered for an administration job but now seems glad it never happened. Despite all that, Kellyanne suggests questions about their marriage are sexist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would ask you that if you were a man and your wife --

CONWAY: No, you wouldn't.

(CROSSTALK)

FOREMAN: And, George, he disagrees with his wife about the cause of any friction, too.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: The problem is with her boss, not me. That's what he has to say. That sounds almost like the definition of irreconcilable differences. Although to be fair, Jake, when I argue with my wife, I often say, it's not really me, it's just someone familiar with the relationship -- Jake.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: All right, Tom.

Let's talk about this. Your initial response?

HENDERSON: You know, I feel uncomfortable with the whole thing. I really even couldn't get through the whole article and no offense to Ben Terris, who's a fantastic reporter, and my god, he got access to these folks.

Why they opened up their house to him is beyond me. And before you -- I still remember Kellyanne Conway being really upset with a certain reporter who asked about --

TAPPER: Yes, (INAUDIBLE) we showed some of that, yes.

HENDERSON: Exactly, asking about the tweets, asking about why her husband is up to this?

[16:45:04] And here she is inviting a reporter and the whole world into her marriage. I just found it icky.

TAPPER: I found it surprising that they let him come in or at least a Kellyanne did because it George isn't really quoted in the piece particularly but -- because it just seems like this is a style reporter who he doesn't necessarily need anything from you ever again. He can burn you and what why do it?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think it's an odd choice to do the profile unless you're going to keep a really good smile on your face through all of the -- and talk about the way you lovingly deal with this divide. And as somebody who has been in a relationship that was politically divided, these thinks actually I think at their best can be a model for how people can walk that line and can have civil disagreements in a loving way in a loving environment. And for the sake of their children, I hope that that is what is happening most of the time. Going off the record about your spouse is not the perfect example for them.

TAPPER: Yes, I mean, I know your husband. And I mean, I can't imagine you guys ever talking that way about let me tell you something about Robert he's you know, as a source close to Robert.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. No, I mean we actually talked about this you know, saying what -- could we survive this actually you know talking about each other this way and actually trying to do it in such a duplicitous way to which is she could conceivably have said like I didn't say that, or also at another point she said nobody knows who I am because of my husband. People know of my husband because of Who I am. I mean that's just a nasty thing to say about someone who by the way it's true he's not a nationally known person but is a very well-known person in Washington and a well- respected person and lawyer.

TAPPER: They were talking to the Solicitor General --

POWERS: Yes. I mean, and he is somebody who you know, a lot of his tweets have not been just directed at Donald Trump. They'd been directed the Federalist Society of which she's a member and they've been very critical and I think a lot of people have paid attention to them. So to do this I think is it's kind of astonishing and I also think it's interesting to watch her say all this stuff off the record and be under the impression that she can put it back on the record which sort of suggests that she does this and that reporters are letting her do this because -- you disagree.

TAPPER: No, I just -- I thought that it was -- I mean this is just my silly view of it but I thought it was charming that they disagreed about Donald Trump and yet they thrived. She had strong feelings for him he had strong feelings against it but their love when their children were much more important.

HENDERSON: That would have been a great story.

TAPPER: That's what I thought of them or think of them but you know, obviously this off-the-record thing was her own background thing.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It's not great. I mean, George I think Conway was proud of his wife's role in the Trump campaign. He was willing to work in the Trump Administration Justice Department and then I by his account (INAUDIBLE) I don't slightly live up but the people have told me and I think with the with the chronology of his beginning the tweets is he really got upset with Trump's actual behavior in office and especially the firing of Comey.

TAPPER: Right.

KRISTOL: And he decided Donald Trump is not behaving as the President of the United States should behave.

TAPPER: Well, he's like a Bill Kristol Republican. He's a conservative who doesn't like what Donald Trump does.

KRISTOL: Like Bill McRaven.

TAPPER: Like Bill McRaven.

KRISTOL: Yes. He was trying to give him the benefit of the doubt and hopeful and I think he just felt. And then I believe the reason he's spoken up as much to see as it feels to many conservative lawyers in Washington don't speak up, they like the judicial appointments, they have friends who are general counsel of one agency or another and they want to have good access.

And it's not selfishness necessarily for career some of that but it's also they know people and they don't want to be at odds and he felt as a distinguished conservative lawyer. Someone should say you know what, this is not right with the way the President treats the Justice Department, the rule of law, etcetera.

TAPPER: I want to change tanks if I can because Governor Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York said something stunning yesterday that President Trump took a whack at. Let's originally go to the original sound from Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York talking about the United States of America.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: We're not going to make America great again. It was never that great. We have not reached greatness. We will reach greatness when every American is fully engaged. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: You work for Andrew Cuomo years ago, it was never that great? That's kind of a surprising thing for the Governor of the Empire State not to mention a potential 2020 candidate secession.

POWERS: Yes, it's a terrible sound bite for sure if it's -- when it's used against him. And I think he went on to try to explain what he meant and I think that yes it's true that America has a lot of terrible things in our history. We were a country that was founded on slavery. We had segregation. We you know, have oppressed women, we have oppressed you know, minorities, we've done a lot of things that are wrong but so have most countries right?

And so the question is how -- does that make us not a great country? And I think that that's a hard argument for him to make at all but a particularly hard argument to make us a politician.

TAPPER: I just wonder is this like when John Kerry said I was against it before I was before it in the sense that this is one gaffe but it really could be used against him forever.

[16:50:06] HENDERSON: Yes, you think so. And you know I mean, he is a potential 2020 person but sort of in all the lists of the top 10 people, he doesn't usually make that list. He's no Mario Cuomo in terms of his ability to speak, in terms of his ability for soaring rhetoric. I mean he's kind of a wooden figure and I think he's got some work to do in terms of -- in terms of his rhetoric.

You can also see him move trying to move to the left because of Cynthia Nixon who I think he's like 30 points ahead of but he's clearly is trying to do that. And listen, I mean he is getting at what you're getting at, this whole idea of what Trump is sort of nostalgic about America's past and most women, most African-Americans, Latinos, gay people aren't really nostalgic in that way so he's trying to critique that but he completely failed.

HAM: Yes, I mean you can say -- you can make the argument America is a flawed country and it kinds of a deeply flawed claim but it's also the greatest experiment in human freedom in the history of the world and like that part matters. And so I think it will haunt him forever that he said this and I think it's a -- it's a temptation of too many on the on the left and the sort of resistance camp to speak in this way about the country and it will not serve them electorally. Even if they feel it passionately, it will not help them.

KRISTOL: Some dark money Republican Super PAC to put up $10 million of ads and the outer boroughs in upstate with that clip and tell people to vote for Cynthia Nixon and I don't know, there's a lot of question that she could come close to him. I mean Zephyr Teachout got what 40 percent of the vote?

TAPPER: Also to use that -- but that might drive up turn out for him in Manhattan right? I mean like there are a lot of --

KRISTOL: There's still more people. There's a lot of a charity in New York State.

TAPPER: Well, I don't know --

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: He was as you say trying to pander in a way to the progressives. But what if she said something like Andrew Cuomo is trying to learn how to talk progressive or something. I thought she --

HENDERSON: Yes, I think that's what Nixon said.

TAPPER: But I mean, is that what he was doing you think? He was trying to oh I don't want to get caught up in like saying the United States is too great because the -- that's not what the Democratic base thinks or the Liberals? I mean why would he say such a thing?

POWERS: Yes, I think that that's what he's doing and I think you know certainly back when I knew him and I was working for him in his first governor's race he was much more of like a DLC type Democrat. So I think there is something to that, that maybe he doesn't quite know how to talk this language.

TAPPER: All right, interesting. Don't call it mission accomplished just yet. Next, proof the President Trump's fight to defeat ISIS may regrettably be far from over. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00 TAPPER: In our "NATIONAL LEAD" now. An accused al Qaeda and ISIS member arrested in California after a four-year manhunt. Authorities say Omar Ameen moved to the United States in 2014 as a refugee after he killed a police officer in Iraq. He lied on his application to get approval. Now the U.S. is preparing to extradite him to his home country to face trial. This comes as a report comes as the Defense Department Inspector General reports ISIS still has a strong and large following in Syria and Iraq despite losing so much ground. CNN's Barbara Starr reports that even though the President declared victory over ISIS, that war appears far from over.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Coalition forces in a firefight against ISIS positions near what is supposed to be one of their last hideouts in Syria. President Trump always says his administration is winning against ISIS.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have made great strides against ISIS.

STARR: But now revealed the terror group still commands up to 30,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq according to the latest U.S. military estimate. The assessment, even after ISIS has been pushed into small pockets of territory, it is still more capable than al Qaeda and Iraq at its peak in 2006-2007, a Pentagon spokesman told CNN. And it is well positioned to rebuild and work on enabling its physical caliphate to reemerge.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: This report signifies that ISIS remains a formidable threat.

STARR: With ISIS's old power centers like Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria long liberated, ISIS has turned to isolated attacks. But if the Pentagon prediction of ISIS rebuilding is true, Trump may have to change this message.

TRUMP: And by the way, we're knocking the hell out of ISIS. We'll be coming out of Syria like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now.

STARR: One success the dismantlement of the original network of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

GEN. TONY THOMAS, U.S. SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND: Down through a network where we have killed a conservative estimate of 60,000 to 70,000 of his followers, his army.

STARR: But winning is something else. '

KIRBY: There is no question that the international coalition to defeat ISIS has been effective in terms of reducing their sizable footprint in Iraq and in Syria. What this report tells us is that they are still a viable terrorist network.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Now, Syria may be the place to watch. ISIS has always seen it as a safe haven. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us, thank you so much. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER, you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage now continues with Jim Acosta in for Wolf in "THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Happening now, met his match. Former Apprentice star Omarosa releases another secret recording and says she will do what's necessary to protect herself --