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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
First Family at White House; President Trump Being Sued Over Business Ties. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired June 12, 2017 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Today, the Democratic attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia announced that they are suing President Trump, arguing that the president has -- quote -- "flagrantly violated the U.S. Constitution."
It's our conflict of interest watch today.
The lawsuit takes issue with the ongoing ownership of his hotel in Washington, D.C., as well as his worldwide network of hotels, golf courses and commercial properties.
Let's get right to CNN's Cristina Alesci.
Cristina, we have been talking for months about this clause in the Constitution that might not permit foreign governments spending money at Trump hotels.
CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, I feel like we talk about this once a week, the Emoluments Clause, which is supposed to guard against corruption.
As you know, it bars the president from accepting gifts and benefits from any government, both foreign and domestic. This is supposed to ensure there's no self-dealing and there's no question about where the president's loyalties actually lie.
Now the D.C. attorney general today in a press conference put it very bluntly. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL A. RACINE, D.C. ATTORNEY GENERAL: And what are we to do, sit back and allow the president to police himself?
This is America. We have a Constitution. Our founding fathers were concerned about corruption. They were concerned about a president of the United States not focusing on the people's business, but being worried about personal business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALESCI: The lawsuit focuses on payment, both from foreign and domestic sources.
And they list plenty of examples. For example, Saudi Arabia spent $190,000 for lodging and $78,000 for catering at the president's D.C. hotel. It lists trademark protections in China and $32 million in historic tax credits for the Trump International Hotel. That's just to name a few.
Look, D.C. and Maryland say they have a right to sue because they are a party to the Constitution and some of their residents actually compete with Trump's hotel, that they have been harmed because of unfair competition.
The attorney generals are asking the court to intervene here and force the president to stop violating the Constitution.
TAPPER: All right. Cristina, but, bottom line, do Maryland and D.C. stand a chance here with this litigation?
ALESCI: It's a very good question and I have talked to lawyers on both sides of the aisle, and it's unclear, but one thing is for sure. Expect a very strong pushback from the White House. It will likely move to dismiss the case.
When asked about it today, Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied the president is violating the Constitution. He said the lawsuit is politically motivated since it was filed by two Democratic attorneys general.
But here's an important detail. If this case does move to discovery, move to the next stage, the plaintiff will ask for documents, including the president's tax returns. And, look, as we have noted before, we have covered this issue since January, when there was a similar lawsuit filed by a nonprofit watchdog group.
This one might have more firepower because it's two state attorneys, but it's unclear because of the Emoluments Clause, as we know, has never been tested. But, Jake, here's the thing also that I'm hearing. This is not the end of the lawsuits. More are coming on this issue.
TAPPER: Cristina Alesci, thank you so much.
I'm joined now by my political roundtable. We have lots to discuss, but I do want to start with Ivanka Trump this morning. Let's roll that tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IVANKA TRUMP, ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: It is hard and there's a level of viciousness that I was not expecting. I was a little blindsided by it on a personal level.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: It is true, David, that there is a level of viciousness in this town. And certainly Ivanka, Jared and her father have been subjected to some of it, but a lot of people would Donald Trump is no slouch when it comes to getting tough and being vicious himself.
DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I don't disagree with that, Jake.
This is politics, full-contact sport. So, I think that what some of the family members are subjected to perhaps is a little unfair and feeling it for the first time, it stings, but I think it is -- it is perhaps a little unfair on some of the family members, but the president -- you don't hear the president complaining.
TAPPER: I don't know. We don't hear the president complaining?
URBAN: The president is too tough. He dishes. He gives it out just as well as he takes it.
TAPPER: OK. That part is more agreeable.
But was it tough for you? You were with Barack Obama when he was a senator. Was it tough for him and his family members, especially I would say Michelle, the first lady, to deal with how vicious this town can be?
JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure.
D.C. is a viper pit and I think every family who comes here experienced it in a new way. But Ivanka Trump is not just a daughter. She is a senior adviser. She took on that role. She is overseeing a lot of issues like women's rights and women's -- a lot of issues under women's rights.
What she's experiencing I think right now is a bit of a disappointment. She have came here and people thought she would be a moderating force. People thought she would be somebody who moderate Republicans and Democrats could reach out to.
And now that she's not, I think people are disappointed.
But, yes, absolutely, for Every White House and every family, it's an exposure that you don't experience no matter what your background is.
URBAN: But, also, Jake, too, I think what she expressed this morning was disappointment that she sees reflected across America, right?
Voters didn't send the president here. They sent him here to change Washington, to break some china, to move an agenda forward, jobs creation, education, work force development.
We're not getting that right now. And I think there's a little frustration on that part and it was expressed this morning.
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But whose fault is that? It's not like the president has really reached out to Democrats. And a lot of the infighting is between Republicans and Democrats have absolutely nothing to do with it at this point.
He keeps blaming them, but yet they control, Republicans control everything.
TAPPER: I want to turn to the issue of prosecutor, special prosecutor Mueller.
One of the president's lawyers did not rule out if President Trump would ever order the firing of Mueller. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: The president -- the president of the United States, as we all know, is a unitary executive.
But the president is going to seek the advice of his counsel, and inside the government as well as outside. And I'm not going to speculate on what he will or will not do.
I can't imagine that that issue is going to arise, but that again is an issue that the president with his advisers would discuss if there was a basis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, the reason why this comes up is because when Comey was a -- worked in the Justice Department for President Bush, when he was deputy attorney general, he wrote a letter to the gentleman who was investigating the leak of Valerie Plame's name and gave him, Patrick Fitzgerald, independence. Like, in that letter, it was you're independent.
But Mueller does not have that same, at least on paper, that same amount of independence, so theoretically he could be fired.
Do you think this is just something that media is creating, or do you think this is a real issue?
KUCINICH: You can never tell with President Trump, and it seems like his lawyer, Jay Sekulow, was being careful, which you haven't heard from some Trump aides, because you can never definitively say that President Trump is not going to do something.
And we have seen him turn on a dime. Now, would it be politically perilous for him to can Bob Mueller? Yes, very.
URBAN: Look, I don't think that it's going to happen. I think this is created. It's a media spin off one comment from Jay Sekulow.
So, I think just move on. And Mueller is going to do his job. I think the entire -- you know, you heard earlier Senator Rand Paul talking about this is a sideshow tomorrow. We have a really credible person looking into this.
I think it's the Congress -- I'm usually very much in favor of congressional oversight. I think you're not going to hear anything new tomorrow from Attorney General Sessions. I think Director Mueller is an incredibly credible guy who is going to get to the bottom of this at some point and I think Washington needs to move on.
TAPPER: There was kind of a bizarre moment earlier this afternoon. The president met with his Cabinet and then he went around the table and some of them effusively praised the president in a manner, frankly, David that I can't imagine you ever doing.
URBAN: Listen, I'm a huge fan of the president. I come on national TV and praise the president.
TAPPER: No, I know. No, you do, but not in the manner that we heard.
Senator Schumer, the Democratic leader of the Senate, the minority leader, had a little fun with it with his staff. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: I want to thank everybody for coming. I just thought we'd go around the room.
Lucy, how did we do on the Sunday show yesterday?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your tone was perfect. You were right on message.
SCHUMER: Michelle, how did my hair look coming out of the gym this morning?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have great hair. Nobody has better hair than you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before we go any further, I just want to say thank you for the opportunity and blessing to serve your agenda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Well, a specific dig at Reince Priebus there at the end for his effusive praise.
Do you think that that was a genuine emotional outpouring, or do you think that people thought that President Trump needed to hear that because he feels a little cornered right now?
URBAN: Look, I think you're serving the president because you want to work there.
People don't take those jobs, as Jen knows, because of the high pay and glory. You're there seven days a week, 20 hours a day. You're working hard. You're there because you believe in the president, you believe in the agenda.
I believe everyone around that table is completely sincere. I believe it was an attempt to start a pivot, right, and to focus on work force development and get back to the meaningful issues here in Washington, veterans' suicide, opioid crisis, mental health crisis.
There are plenty of things that we could focus on in Washington other than the investigation that Director Mueller is going to undertake for the next year. We can spend the next year talking about it. Or we can pivot and begin to look at real things like work force issues and things that the president has talked about this week.
TAPPER: Jen, I want to ask you one question. Over the weekend, Senator Bernie Sanders had sharp words for the Democratic Party in regards to when he was asked how Mr. Trump won the election. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: And my answer is that Trump didn't win the election. The Democratic Party lost the election.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SANDERS: The Democratic Party must finally understand which side it is on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: I mean, it sounds like the Democratic Party is like really going through a tough time right now.
KUCINICH: There's something to what Senator Sanders said. Now, there's a division in the Democratic Party, some of which many argue he's stoking, which I agree with.
But in the couple of months after the election, when you talked to a lot of Democrats, including in the DNC, they would acknowledge there was a problem. They would say, but we won the popular vote and this is a fluke.
In my recent conversations with officials over there and people who are helping them, they have started to recognize and acknowledge that changes need to be made, that the Democratic Party needs a platform and that that needs to be put together.
Now, whether that will be successful, we will see over the next six to 18 months, but I have seen a change in the recognition that there's a problem. I have seen some changes that Tom Perez has tried to make and we will see.
TAPPER: So they are at the acceptance level.
KUCINICH: They are at the acceptance and they're trying to come up with a platform.
He's right. The Democratic Party, we did do a lot to lose the election. It's not just that Donald Trump won.
URBAN: Quickly, the Democrats had their -- they had their convention in Pennsylvania. They worked really hard in Pennsylvania, but President Trump won this election. Democrats didn't lose it. He won it.
TAPPER: David Urban put the flag in Pennsylvania, as we all know.
Jackie, Jen, David, thanks so much.
Elite American forces are on the front lines in the war on terror on dangerous, deadly missions that most Americans will never know about. But we're going to take you behind enemy lines next.
And coming up, a president's young son is living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the first time in more than 50 years. Will the first family change President Trump's White House? Stay with us.
[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN THE LEAD ANCHOR: We're back with the "WORLD LEAD". The Pentagon has identified the three U.S. troops shot and killed by an Afghan army commando on Saturday in what is being designated an insider attack or green on blue. They are 25-year-old Sergeant Eric Houck of Baltimore, Maryland, 29-year-old Sergeant William Bays of Barstow, California, and Corporal Dillon Baldridge, 22 of Youngsville, North Carolina. Their deaths are another stark reminder that the U.S. has tens of thousands of service members in harm's way around the globe right now and while these three souls were not special operations increasingly American casualties have been from Special Forces, Navy SEALs, and other special operators. In a CNN exclusive now, Barbara Starr reports on the exceptional valor showed by two Navy SEALs killed in the line of duty earlier this year.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Navy SEAL. Ryan Owens 36, killed in action in January in Yemen during a nighttime raid targeting Al-Qaeda operatives. It's one of the most dangerous missions that special operations forces are called upon to carry out.
Navy SEAL. Kyle Milliken 38, also killed but in Somalia last month also during the raid of serving the as a military adviser to Somali forces. The two Navy SEALs spent years on secret missions, in dangers few knew anything about. Congressman Scott Taylor, a former Navy SEAL. sniper knew them.
REP. SCOTT TAYLOR (R), VIRGINIA: It's a big tragedy. We lost both those men because they were - they were outstanding heroes for our nation. STARR: CNN has obtained the battlefield citations for both Owens and Milliken. Both of whom served for years on high-risk classified combat missions. New details now reveal of their extraordinary service. Owens was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the nation's third-highest medal for valor in a never disclosed battle against 400 Al-Qaeda militants in 2015. U.S. officials say it all happened deep inside war-torn Somalia.
This secret battle raged for three days in July 2015. Owens leading a 12-man team alongside African forces, targeting 400 enemy militants, constantly ambushed and attacked with small arms, machine guns, anti- aircraft guns, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and improvised explosive devices according to his citation. Owens repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire. The citation says, eventually the team securing a town that had been in enemy hands for ten years. On earlier tours, he helped rescue buddies who were pinned down and wounded and guided in medevac choppers under fire.
TAYLOR: From everything I knew about him, he's a great, great guy, highly committed, highly talented.
STARR: From Somalia to Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, it's largely fallen on special operations forces to wage battle against ISIS, Al-Qaeda and their affiliates, and they are increasingly paying with their lives. Five killed in action in 2017, 22 since June 2014 when the war against ISIS began. Taylor, like so many who served on the front lines, rejects the controversial Pentagon view that when troops are military advisers, they must stay out of the direct line of fire.
TAYLOR: There's no boots on the ground, they are just advisers. Well, we know that's just BS. Of course, they are boots on the ground.
STARR: On Milliken's final mission, he was an adviser to Somali forces, alongside them in the line of fire.
TAYLOR: He certainly can't fault the operator for wanting to get into the fight. You know, they're there. They're there on the ground with the - with the force that they're helping.
STARR: Scott Taylor recalls his own first mission in Iraq which was alongside Milliken.
TAYLOR: Everyone loved Kyle, everyone loved him.
STARR: Milliken also served for years in combat as part of a heavily relied-upon special operations force. In 2007 alone, he conducted 48 combat missions in Iraq. During one mission, he helped evacuate three wounded SEALs under fire. In 2009, his team was spotted as they approached a compound they were raiding. Milliken went in, killing enemy forces from less than 20 feet away.
The citations released to CNN remain heavily blacked out, shielding classified details. But there is one clue on how secret their work was. In 2015, Milliken was awarded the Navy Achievement medal for developing "ground-breaking procedures" for "future national mission taskings."
In the world of special operations, "national missions" are the most classified, requiring presidential approval and often remaining secret for decades. Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.
[16:50:37] TAPPER: And our thanks to Barbara Starr for that report. Another world news today, the White House this afternoon called on the Russian government to release demonstrators arrested earlier today in anti-corruption protests across Russia. Press Secretary Sean Spicer calling the arrests, which included minors, an affront to quote, "core democratic values." One of those taken into custody, a well-known opposition leader and Putin critic and I want to go right to CNN's Diana Magnay in St. Petersburg, Russia. And Diana, how did these protests come about?
DIANNA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the second round of protests Jake, called by Alexei Navalny who is a Kremlin critic and anti-corruption campaigner. And he's managed to galvanize tens of thousands of people in more than 100 cities across this country r. Today, the second time that they came out, and the Kremlin I think has been taken back by the scale of these protests and has reacted both times by detaining hundreds of protesters most of them in Moscow and St. Petersburg and I think he's hoping that that crushes the momentum that Navalny is trying to build and it may not be that easy. Jake.
TAPPER: And Diana, tell us more about the opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
MAGNAY: Well, he's a very interesting figure. He's an anti- corruption blogger. He's produce these videos on YouTube which have been viewed millions of times, detailing the kind of yachts and estates belonging especially to the Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and that really resonates with the young who feel that the political elite in this country lead a very, very different life when many normal people can't really scrape past the poverty line. Navalny himself is campaigning to run for President in next year's elections, and it's unclear whether he will because of a slightly spurious embezzlement conviction. That means - the laws in this country mean he may not be able to can't run for public office but I think, with these protests, he is trying to put pressure on the Kremlin so if they block him from running it, it will appear illegitimate and against the public will. And on his campaign trail so far, he's been sprayed with antiseptic and you can see him with green face burns to the eye. But he is a very interesting figure and someone that the Kremlin will be watching and I think possibly fearing. Jake.
TAPPER: Indeed. Diana Magnay in St. Petersburg, Russia for us, thanks so much.
The first family is back together living under one roof. Will that affect the President's nighttime tweeting routine? That's next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:55:00] TAPPER: More on our "POLITICS LEAD" now. Nearly five months into the Trump Presidency. The first family is finally living together under one roof full-time. First Lady Melania Trump and Barron Trump officially moved into the White House over the weekend. And CNN's Kate Bennett joins me now, and Kate, some people frankly wondered if she was ever going to move out of Manhattan into Washington D.C.
KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Some people did but you know, as the President himself has said several times, when Barron is done with school, she's moving down here and (INAUDIBLE) here she is. It's not unusual for the first family to land back in Washington from a trip but this time was different. This time, Melania Trump was coming home.
BENNETT: Today marks the first full day Melania Trump and 11-year-old son Barron Trump are official residents of the White House, having finally moved from their New York penthouse apartment in Trump Tower. With a single tweet, Melania Trump made the announcement. The White House is no longer without a full-time first lady. It was accompanying President Trump on his first trip abroad last month that offered the public its longest and most consistent opportunity to learn more about Mrs. Trump. After wowing international audiences with her style, who can forget that $50,000 jacket, the first lady closed the trip with a rare public speech to U.S. military families stationed abroad.
MELANIA TRUMP, U.S. FIRST LADY: It is because of your selfless commitment that we enjoy the freedoms we have today.
BENNETT: Since January back home in Washington, the First Lady has taken part in official duties when she's able, hosting the wives of dignitaries.
M. TRUMP: That's beautiful, thank you very much.
BENNETT: And making two visits to Children's Hospital. Her presence and that of Barron might also fill up some free time for the President who has been living solo and having a few extra hours to watch the news, ponders politics and, yes, tweet. Now back together, Melania could tell him to put down the phone as she said in an interview last year she's tried to do.
M. TRUMP: Something he listens, sometimes he doesn't.
D. TRUMP: I'm not a big tweeter. I mean, don't do too many.
BENNETT: Being the first couple now full-time also means Trump might be on better behavior. Making sure not to crowd his wife off the red carpet, there's that and hand salute from their trip and remembering to cover his heart for the national anthem, something that took a nudge at the Easter egg roll.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BENNETT: A White House official this afternoon tells CNN, the First Lady is being thoughtful about her platform and initiatives and she looks forward to announcing them in coming weeks.
TAPPER: All right, Kate Bennett, thank you so much. Appreciate it. That's it for THE LEAD today, I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM. "Thank you so much for watching.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, open sessions. Attorney General Jeff Sessions prepares to testify publicly before the Senate panel amid questions about his contacts with Russia and the firing of the FBI Director James Corey.