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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Obama Slams Trump "Crazy Stuff" Coming Out of White House; Ex- Trump Campaign Adviser Sentenced to 14 Days in Russia Probe; Trump Reacts To new Ad: "What Was Nike Thinking"; Defense Secretary Mattis Makes Surprise Visit To Afghanistan. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired September 7, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Obama argued that preventing nearly 3,000 Americans from dying in a hurricane in its aftermath, a reference to Hurricane Maria's toll on Puerto Rico, should not be a partisan issue, and neither should protecting freedom of the press or denouncing hate, a reference to Trump's much panned both sides are to blame response to last year's violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

[16:30:20] BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: We're sure as heck supposed to stand up clearly and unequivocally to Nazi sympathizers.

(APPLAUSE)

How hard can that be? Saying that Nazis are bad?

JONES: And he talked about the importance of showing up, not only on the campaign trail reaching voters in all corners of the country, but also showing up at the polls.

OBAMA: These are extraordinary times. And they're dangerous times. But here's the good news. In two months we have the chance, not the certainty, but the chance to restore some semblance of sanity to our politics. What's going to fix our democracy is you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JONES: Now, President Obama's speech today kicks off a campaign swing that will take the former president, still perhaps the most popular spokesman for the Democratic Party, to Orange County, California, tomorrow to rally with seven Democratic candidates for the House. He's also going to be stumping in Pennsylvania and Ohio in the coming weeks.

So, we're going to be seeing and hearing a lot more from him -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Athena Jones with former President Obama in Illinois.

Let's continue this conversation.

Bill, critics of President Obama picked up on Obama saying that the politics of resentment and paranoia had found a home in the Republican Party. Ben Shapiro, the conservative commentator, tweeting, this would be more convincing if Obama hadn't suggested that resentment and paranoia fueled the Republican Party for a decade before Trump. Does he have a point?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think he does. I mean, these things don't usually make a difference at the end of the day. This huge amount of debate, should we have this surrogate or that, you know? It's two months out.

I would say this. Obama beat Romney last time President Obama was on the ballot, 51-47. That break is not enough for Democrats to win the House. So to be very simple minded about it, there need to be people who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 who now Democratic this time for the House or Senate. There are such people, there will be such people I think.

The best messenger to them is someone who says, I, too, have been a Republican and voted Republican many times. By definition, if the Democrats going to pick the House, they're going to have to defeat incumbent Republicans. If you're an incumbent, you won more 50 percent of the vote, right? Someone voted for you who's going to have to switch.

And I don't think Obama is the best messenger to get former Republican voters to switch.

SYMONE SANDERS, FORMER NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY, BERNIE 2016: I have to say this election is not about former Republican voters and these imaginary white working class voters that everybody likes to talk about, Obama-Trump voters which really accounted for 8 percent of the electorate in 2016. This election --

KRISTOL: That's a lot.

SANDERS: Which is a lot, 56 million people voted for Donald Trump. But Democratic turnout was down in 2016. We have seen midterm -- not midterm. We've seen primary elections across this country is Democratic turnout is up and Republican turnout is down.

And so, yes, we will need some of the well meaning suburban women that did not do the right thing in 2016 to pull the lever for the people that will hold your president accountable in 2018. But this is really about people understanding the power of their vote and that's what Obama talked about in the bulk of this speech.

This wasn't as much -- people are saying it's a Trump takedown. He hit Trump and he also let folks know that, look, no one is coming to save you. We have to save ourselves and this is people powered voting which is going to get it done.

TAPPER: We have never seen anything like this, at least in modern memory, though. George W. Bush did not hit the campaign trail and attack President Obama. Obama didn't do it to George W. Bush. Or I mean, George W. Bush didn't do it to Obama, et cetera. I mean, it's fairly at least in the modern era unprecedented to have a former president go after his immediate successor.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There's a great book I think called the "Presidents Club" that details --

TAPPER: Karen Tumulty and Michael Duffy?

KUCINICH: I believe so. I can't remember.

TAPPER: Yes.

KUCINICH: But it details very clearly this long, going back forever, this precedent that you don't -- because there's only one other -- couple other people that are living that understand the unique pressures of that job. So, as you said modern history, you don't see that happen. But this is obviously either unprecedented times and you haven't had a president quite like President Trump, but I will say where Obama will go, I think it's going to be first, do no harm, right? He's not going to go anywhere that's going to drive voters away. He might be very effective, somewhere like Georgia where you have --

KRISTOL: Going to Orange County, Ohio and Pennsylvania. I'm not sure there's not swing voters to hear who -- if Obama makes it a pure partisan race, I just think --

SANDERS: The point is to show up.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: On your point, what was partisan about this speech? To me there were four big hits on Trump that we now code as partisan somehow. He said don't coddle Nazis. Don't use the Department of Justice to -- don't use the Department of Justice to go after the political enemies.

TAPPER: Right.

LIZZA: Don't attack the First Amendment and the press. And, you know, Russia used to be -- is still an adversary.

[16:35:02] Don't coddle one of our adversaries. If you had read that, if you didn't know Obama said it, you wouldn't say it's a partisan speech.

TAPPER: Take a listen to the section about the press. I just want to air that very quickly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I complained plenty about Fox News. But you never heard me threaten to shut them down, or call them enemies of the people. It shouldn't be Democratic or Republican to say we don't target certain groups of people based on what they look like or how they pray. We are Americans. We're supposed do stand up to bullies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: To Ryan's point, Bill, very quickly if you could, that's not -- that's not a partisan message.

KRISTOL: Yes. Last sentence is good message. Other parts seemed to attack the Republican Party more broadly. Whatever the truth or not truth, I'm not sure that's tactically --

LIZZA: He wasn't talking about Medicare or --

TAPPER: He wasn't saying that Paul Ryan's going to push -- what he did when he was president. Paul Ryan --

(CROSSTALK)

LIZZA: Like the McCain funeral, right? Like people talk about democracy and bipartisanship as an attack on Trump. What does that say about Trump?

SANDERS: That he ain't about democracy or bipartisanship.

TAPPER: All right. Everyone stick around.

A convicted Trump campaign official in his sentencing hearing right now. And he sat down with me for his first-ever TV interview, giving us a new picture of how Robert Mueller is building his case, the mysterious case of George Papadopoulos.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:40:52] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: We have some breaking news now in Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation. His first sentencing just happened for a member of the Trump campaign. George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI when the Russia conspiracy started.

Papadopoulos was once called an excellent guy by then candidate Trump, but as President Trump today denied ever knowing him. Papadopoulos had a seat at Trump's national security table during the campaign, as you might recall. But when Mueller's criminal charges came down last year, he was dismissed as even a coffee boy by some Trump officials.

I spoke exclusively with Papadopoulos just before today's hearing and I'll have the first interview with him in just a moment. But, first, let's go to CNN's Sara Murray outside the courthouse.

And, Sara, George Papadopoulos, the sentence has come down. What was it?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The judge sentenced George Papadopoulos to 14 days in prison. He is also facing a fine, this coming after Papadopoulos expressed some regret for lying to investigators and his attorney in court cast his client as a naive fool.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY (voice-over): George Papadopoulos, the former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, is now the first member of the president's team to be sentenced as part of the Russia investigation. The historic distinction far from the national impact the 31-year-old had hoped to have.

According to the sentencing memo from Papadopoulos' lawyers, he misled investigators to save his professional aspirations and preserve a perhaps misguided loyalty to his master.

That master and the administration quick to dismiss the former foreign policy adviser's role.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It was a volunteer position and, again, no activity was ever done in an official capacity.

MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I have no idea why people would think that a volunteer coffee boy like George Papadopoulos would get to the top of this campaign.

MURRAY: It was Papadopoulos who revealed to a diplomat that he had been told the Russians had thousands of e-mails about Hillary Clinton. That helps open FBI investigation that eventually became Robert Mueller's special counsel probe.

During the 2016 campaign, the young adviser attended a meeting of Trump's new national security team including Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions. Papadopoulos pitched a meeting between then candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. When the FBI asked him about his Kremlin link contacts seeking to meddle in the presidential election --

SANDERS: What Papadopoulos did was lie and that's on him. Not on the campaign. We can't speak for that.

MURRAY: In court documents, the defense pleaded his ignorance, to say George was out of his depth would be a gross understating. His wife got even more technical.

SIMONA MANGIANTE, GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS' WIFE: He didn't lie because of the nature of his relationship with Russia, because he didn't have any relationship with Russia. He lied about the date.

MURRAY: But the prosecution says Papadopoulos was not just a nervous novice but an uncooperative one. The defendant did not provide substantial assistance and much of the information provided by the defendant came only after the government confronted him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, the government wanted to use George Papadopoulos as an example of what happens when people lie to investigators. They had asked that he go to prison for six months, obviously. The judge deciding that a two-week sentence would fit the bill -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Sara Murray, outside the courthouse.

Until now, Papadopoulos has not done any interviews, but I spoke to him exclusively in his first interview, and while he maintains he does not remember telling anyone on the Trump campaign that he was told that the Russians had Hillary Clinton's e-mails, he also left open the possibility that maybe he did.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: There are going to be people out there who think there's no way George Papadopoulos didn't tell anyone on the campaign. Did you tell anyone on the campaign?

GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS, CONVICTED EX-TRUMP ADVISER: As far as I remember I absolutely did not share --

TAPPER: You didn't tell Corey Lewandowski?

PAPADOPOULOS: As far as I can remember, I didn't share the information with anyone on the campaign.

TAPPER: Not Sam Clovis?

PAPADOPOULOS: Anyone.

TAPPER: Dearborn?

PAPADOPOULOS: Anyone.

TAPPER: Mashburn (ph)

PAPADOPOULOS: Anyone.

TAPPER: Walid Phares? None of them?

PAPADOPOULOS: I might have but I have no recollection of doing so. I can't guarantee it. All I can say is my memory telling me I never shared it with anyone on the campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Papadopoulos also contradicted the sworn testimony of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the former Trump campaign adviser, claimed that Sessions and then candidate Trump both seemed to support his idea of setting up a meeting of Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

[16:45:07] Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: When did you first meet Donald Trump?

GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS, FORMER AIDE, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: March 31st at the national security meeting.

TAPPER: There's a photo of you at the table. Candidate Trump was there, Senator Jeff Sessions was there. What was discussed in that meeting in terms of Russia, in terms of meeting with Putin? PAPADOPOULOS: As far as I remember, it was I who brought up anything regarding Russia. I was under the impression that an individual I had met in Rome, the so-called professor was able to provide high-level connections in Russia that would result in some sort of summit or meeting mostly for a photo-op. So I set down and you know, I looked at the candidates, I looked at Candidate Trump directly in his eyes and said I can do this for you if it's in your interest and if it's in the campaign's interest. And the collective energy in the room, of course there were some dissenters and -- but the collective energy in the room seemed to be interested.

TAPPER: The collective energy, was Donald Trump interested?

PAPADOPOULOS: The candidate, you know, he gave me sort of a nod. He wasn't committed either away but it was -- I took it as he was thinking.

TAPPER: Senator Jeff Sessions was there too --

PAPADOPOULOS: Yes.

TAPPER: -- at the table. What was his response?

PAPADOPOULOS: My recollection was that the Senator was actually enthusiastic about a meeting between the candidate and President Putin.

TAPPER: So you say that then-senator, now Attorney General Sessions was enthusiastic about the idea of candidate Trump meeting Putin but he has said the exact opposite. He says -- he testified before Congress saying that he "pushed back" when you raised the possibility of a meeting with Russia. That's not true you're saying?

PAPADOPOULOS: I don't remember that.

TAPPER: You don't remember him pushing back?

PAPADOPOULOS: No.

TAPPER: You remember him saying this is a good idea?

PAPADOPOULOS: I remember him being enthusiastic about a potential meeting between the candidates and President Putin after I raised the question.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Sessions released a statement today through his lawyer telling CNN "Attorney General Sessions has publicly testified under oath about his recollection of this meeting and he stands by his testimony." We're going to have much more from that interview throughout the rest of the day on CNN and we're going to have a special report on George Papadopoulos at 11:00 p.m. Eastern this evening, a documentary about him. But let's talk about this with the panel. First of all, Papadopoulos can't guarantee that he didn't tell anybody

from the Trump campaign about the fact that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton. He says he doesn't remember doing it. I went through a list of people, no, no, no, no, but he said I can't guarantee it.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. So that is the two big pieces of news from the interview so far are that, right, he couldn't definitively say that he didn't pass this along and then he has a different recollection of a very important meeting than the Attorney General when he testified before Congress and we will see it as Mueller now go down that road and do something about Jeff Sessions as you charge him perjury.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It has been already and we don't know about it.

LIZZA: Maybe. But I will say the fact that the judge was not convinced of the prosecution's argument that he should get a severe sentence I -- you know, that's -- you know, we talked about this case sometimes in wins and losses from Mueller, is it -- don't we have to see this as a loss from Mueller? They wanted something on the side of six months --

TAPPER: Six months up to six months in prison.

LIZZA: He only gave him 14 days.

TAPPER: Yes, two weeks.

LIZZA: The judge in the my understanding of the sentencing was Papadopoulos said look, you know, I may have done something stupid but they tried to make me into this you know, foreign policy expert. I really didn't know what I was doing. I made a mistake I lied. Whereas the prosecution said, this awarded our investigation. He should get six months. So the judge sided with Papadopoulos at the sentence he gave.

TAPPER: Did the judge seemed to buy the argument that he was a naive fool and not --

LIZZA: Yes.

TAPPER: No, I'm serious. And not an uncooperative mastermind --

LIZZA: There you go.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But my thing is he didn't need to be a mastermind or fool to lie to the FBI. He lied to the FBI and they are sending a signal that if you lied to the FBI, you can -- you can get -- you can do two weeks in jail and you be on probation for a year and walk free. There are people that have done far less that have served time for much more. This is part of the problem folks have with the criminal justice system. To the point Papadopoulos' interview it's not every day the Russians come knocking you all. Like it's really (INAUDIBLE) to say a foreign entity comes (INAUDIBLE) over to you saying I've got information about your boss's opponent in this presidential race. I am hard pressed to believe that he does not remember if he shared information with someone else on that --

TAPPER: Bill, let me ask you. Who do you believe, Jeff Sessions or George Papadopoulos about that meeting in March 2016? Papadopoulos says he wants to set up this meeting between Trump and Putin, you know, give him some foreign policy credentials. Papadopoulos says Sessions was enthusiastic, Session says the exact opposite that he pushed back on it. Who do you believe?

[16:50:10] BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I really don't know. I mean, you have a meeting with 12 people and it's some guy you barely know and you're running the meeting and he says maybe it was you or him. I mean, setting up a meeting wouldn't necessarily, of course, prove anything.

TAPPER: No.

KRISTOL: I mean, people have met with foreign leaders as candidates before and so forth so I don't know that that's -- I don't know. That strikes me as less important than the fact that -- yes, I sort of agree with you. Is it really credible that he -- that he was told about real interesting information on Hillary Clinton and just kept that to himself?

TAPPER: Well, what do you think? Is it credible to you? Do you believe him when he says he doesn't remember telling anybody on the campaign? You know, there is a guy named John Mashburn who told according to the New York Times, he was on the campaign, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year that he remembered an e- mail coming to the campaign from Papadopoulos saying that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton. Nobody can find that e-mail.

KUCINICH: I'd love to see the e-mail.

TAPPER: No, nobody can find it. But Mashburn has testified to that -- to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

KUCINICH: We have a lot of people involved in this who really don't tell the truth so it is hard to know who to believe. But let's not forget Sessions did have to go back to the committee and clarify something he said because of his first testimony. And you're going to forgive me because I can't remember exactly what the detail was.

TAPPER: It's about whether or not he met with any Russians.

KUCINICH: Yes, thank you. Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Yes.

KUCINICH: So yes, he had -- he had to go and clear that up so it wouldn't be the first time that Sessions maybe didn't hit the truth nail on the head and the first time he testified in front of Congress.

TAPPER: Do you think this is going to create any -- quickly if you could -- any problems for Sessions?

LIZZA: Yes, I do. I mean, if you have a witness who -- I mean, his problem, of course, is that he admitted to lying, right?

TAPPER: Right.

LIZZA: So that undermines him a little bit but he directly contradicts the Attorney General's testimony so that isn't good for Sessions whether he's prosecuted, indicted for that. I don't know.

TAPPER: All right, awesome stuff. Thanks, everyone. You can see the entire exclusive interview tonight in the "CNN SPECIAL REPORT" The Mysterious Case of George Papadopoulos. It's tonight at 11:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN. It will air again on Sunday night. We are one whole game into the NFL season -- a great game, by the way, I don't if you saw it -- and the President is already going off on the NFL. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: In our "MONEY LEAD" now, when President Trump woke up this morning, clearly something was on his mind. He tweeted what was Nike thinking? The President might be referring this new ad that debuted last night during the first NFL game of the season between the Falcons and the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles won, of course. The ad features Colin Kaepernick, the first person to kneel during the National Anthem before games to protest police brutality and racial injustice. In an interesting twist, last night, no player neither Falcon nor Eagle decided to take a knee despite joining the protest over the past two seasons. Nike actually saw a boost in sales after news broke about the Kaepernick ad campaign growing 31 percent according to Edison Trends.

Turning to our "WORLD LEAD" now. Defense Secretary James Mattis made a surprise visit to Afghanistan overnight, a country besieged by violence. 2018 is quickly becoming one of the bloodiest years for Afghans since the war began. Dozens of people have been killed this week in a series of attacks including Army Command Sergeant Major Timothy Bolyard, a 42-year-old decorated war veteran was shot dead by an Afghan police officer in what's known as a green on blue or an insider attack. He was just weeks away from coming home. CNN's Barbara Starr looks back at his incredible service to this country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Command Sergeant Major Timothy Bolyard's remains is back home with his family. The 42-year- old West Virginia soldier, the sixth service member killed this year in America's longest war. A soldier devoted to serving.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being a cavalryman is not a branch, it's a state of mind.

STARR: Bolyard was shot Monday by an Afghan policeman, the latest case of local security forces turning their guns on American troops. When the news came, family and friends devastated. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It felt like a heart attack.

STARR: A veteran of more than half a dozen deployments, highly decorated with six bronze stars, Bolyard was the senior enlisted soldier in a specialized unit training and advising local forces, key to the U.S. effort to try to end the war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a great leader. He was a father figure to me. He mentored, coached, trained me.

STARR: The Sergeant Major's son Preston posting photos with his father and a heartbreaking message on social media. My life has instantly changed forever, a son's tribute to a beloved father calling him his hero.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: And the unit that the Sergeant served in at the heart of the Trump Administration's effort to try to train Afghan forces and get them to be able to take on their own security. His son also says his father was just weeks away from returning home and finally beginning to think about retirement. Jake?

TAPPER: He sounds like an amazing man and great dad. Thank you, Barbara Starr, at the Pentagon. Be sure to tune to CNN this Sunday morning to "STATE OF THE UNION." My guest will be Republican Senator Ben Sasse and Democratic Senator Mark Warner. It all starts at 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. Eastern. Our coverage continues with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching. I'll see you tonight for our George Papadopoulos special at 11:00 p.m. Eastern.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, Trump aide sentenced. Former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos was sentenced to a very brief --