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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Two GOP Senators Publicly Oppose Health Care Bill; Ex-Trump Campaign Adviser with Russia Ties Testifies. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired July 14, 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 HOST: Ryan, the White House says President Trump himself is working the phones, but is there still room for negotiation if a wavering senator wants something?
[16:30:07] RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: You know, the White House appears to believe there is, Jake, and in many ways they're engaged in a high stakes campaign right now, rallying to hold onto those 50 votes they need to get this bill passed.
NOBLES (voice-over): Tonight, the White House and Senate leaders are making an aggressive push to convince Republican members to vote yes on their latest version of health care reform.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are very, very close to ending this health care nightmare. We are so close.
NOBLES: Fifty-two Republican senators have now had more than 24 hours to digest the bill. And as it stands right now, two members, Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky, remain opposed to the plan.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: It does not make sense to do a major rewrite of a vital entitlement program without having any hearings or consideration of the implications.
NOBLES: That means Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cannot lose any more votes if he hopes to get the bill through. The president, who has let McConnell take the lead in the day-to-day negotiations, is stepping up his public push to get the bill passed.
He tweeted four times about health care Friday morning, writing, quote, Republican senators are working hard to get their failed Obamacare replacement approved. I will be at my desk, pen in hand.
Vice President Mike Pence made a similar pitch a speech to the nation's governors this afternoon.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Donald Trump is going to lead this Congress to rescue the American people from the collapsing policies of Obamacare.
NOBLES: Trump is also working behind the scenes, spending part of his time in Paris making phone calls to GOP senators, including Paul, whose position has not changed. Many rank and file Republicans who remain undecided are waiting to hear from stake holders back home before making up their minds.
SEN. THOM TILLIS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: I would hope that they wait and speak with their state leaders as I will over the weekend, and I hope they wait until they see the CBO score which doesn't come out until next week.
NOBLES: But in some cases, conversations back home could make the situation more difficult. Republicans in states with governors who expanded Medicaid are under a special kind of pressure, because this bill rolls back federal funding for the expansion. Rob Portman of Ohio and Dean Heller of Nevada are both dealing with GOP governors unhappy with the plan.
Nevada's Brian Sandoval was scheduled to meet one on one with Pence today but still has concerns. Ohio Governor John Kasich released a statement where he said the bill is still unacceptable.
NOBLES: And even though the prospects for this bill do look dim right now, most senators are still undecided and they remain optimistic that a deal can be reached. So much will hinge on the score from the Congressional Budget Office. That is expected to come out Monday, and, Jake, that is when we can expect to see firm stances from many of these senators as to whether or not they can vote for this bill -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill for us, thank you so much.
Moving to our politics lead and a controversy over the Education Department's policy on investigating rape and sexual assault on college campuses, after the head of the department's office for civil rights said, quote, 90 percent of sexual assault accusations could be explained as, we were both drunk. That's right. Candice Jackson told "The New York Times", quote, the accusations, 90 percent of them, fall into the category of we were both drunk. We broke up and six months later, I found myself a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.
Obviously, that number was invented and does not even remotely reflect any of the research or scholarship on college sexual assault and rape. Now, Jackson has since apologized for being, quote, flippant, and said as a rape survivor herself, she believes all sexual assault should be taken seriously. But the controversy brings attention to the Trump Education Department's review of whether more strict Obama era policies unfairly punish college students, almost always male, who say they've been falsely accused of rape or sexual assault.
Yesterday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos met with student advocates on both sides of that debate, both victims and those who say they've been falsely accused. No student should be the victim of sexual assault, no student should feel unsafe, no student should feel there isn't a way to seek justice, and no student should feel the scales are tipped against him or her, is the statement that we were given. DeVos said her meetings with students were about listening and she had no policy changes to announce this week.
A former Trump campaign aide with his own ties to Moscow testifying behind closed doors right now, but he already told CNN what he hoped to tell lawmakers. That's next.
[16:39:01] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
We're going to stick to the politics lead now as we learn new details about the meeting that Donald Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort all had with a Russian government lawyer. They thought it was going to be a Russian government lawyer, in fact.
The Russia investigation on Capitol Hill, of course. The House Intelligence Committee is questioning the former Trump campaign communications adviser Michael Caputo behind closed doors. He has Moscow ties himself.
CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin sat down with Caputo earlier this week.
And, Drew, what did Caputo have to tell you about what he planned to say today?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, he says he's been unfairly dragged into this because of his former work in Russia and plans to defend himself and President Trump, because as he told us, he didn't hear any discussion about Russia while he worked at the Trump campaign.
MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER: Sandy beach and company, Michael Caputo in for Sandy who was off on a well- deserved vacation. It's --
GRIFFIN (voice-over): His testimony happened behind closed doors, but Michael Caputo now a fill-in radio talk show host in Buffalo, New York --
[16:40:01] CAPUTO: News Radio 930, WBEN.
GRIFFIN: -- wanted it live, broadcast and in full view.
Instead, he said he's telling CNN exactly what he planned to tell the committee about Russia and the Trump campaign he was involved with. There is just nothing to the allegations of collusion.
(on camera): Let me ask you some questions you'll probably get in Congress. Before, during or after your involvement in the Trump campaign, did you bring any Russians to see that campaign? Did you talk about Russia or the possible help the Russian government could give the campaign? CAPUTO: Never once. Never once.
GRIFFIN: Did you overhear anybody talk about collusion, getting help from the Russians either through information, through fake news spreading, through tweets?
CAPUTO: No: I heard nothing of the kind. In fact, we were so busy just trying to keep up with the sun rising and setting on that campaign that I can't imagine anybody had the time nor the wherewithal to go out there and even do anything like this. Anybody who covered the Trump effort knew this was a pell-mell operation from the moment he woke up in the morning until the moment he went to bed.
GRIFFIN: I've heard it described as a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) show. Too harsh?
CAPUTO: Too harsh for family television, yes.
GRIFFIN: This is cable.
CAPUTO: I think the Trump campaign was in many ways a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) show, there's no question about it. But that was always to be expected. He's not a politician.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): There is a reason Michael Caputo is seen as a possible link to Russia. Long before he was part of Trump's campaign, he had a career in Moscow. His PR company worked for Russian-owned businesses, oligarchs. He was a protege of Roger Stone, worked within Paul Manafort, took contracts in Ukraine and even his first wife was a Russian woman. He was about as much of a Russian insider as an American could be.
CAPUTO: I was working on Russian elections paid by the United States government. I stayed an additional five and a half, six years, running my own company. And ever since then, I've been involved in the former Soviet Union, and I'm not going to stop now.
GRIFFIN: Among his former clients, Gazprom Media, a subsidiary of Russian state owned energy company that took over one of the last independent TV stations in Russia in 2001. Caputo was hired by Gazprom to improve the media company's image. It is that history that got the attention of Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier who brought up Caputo's name in a congressional hearing.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: What possible reason is there for the Trump campaign to hire Putin's image consultant? Any thoughts on that Director Comey?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: No thoughts.
GRIFFIN (on camera): You worked to improved Putin's image?
CAPUTO: No, that's absolutely false. That's Jackie Speier relying upon her interns for too much information. I worked for Gazprom Media, which was a subsidiary of Gazprom, which was allied with Putin. I didn't work on Putin's image. I was trying to help Gazprom explained why they took over the NTV, a television network. If that somehow down the line helped the Kremlin, that wasn't what I was hired for.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): He has known Donald Trump since 1988, and never thought he could be president. But in November of 2015 was asked to become part of the Trump campaign by his old friend Paul Manafort.
CAPUTO: This was the hardest campaign to work on in my entire career. There is nothing even close.
GRIFFIN (on camera): But you still love and support Donald Trump?
CAPUTO: Absolutely. I supported Donald Trump before he ran for president, I support Donald Trump now. I think he's delivering on what he promised me and my family. The problem we have is that he's got a huge impediment in front of him with the Russian collusion delusion.
GRIFFIN: Jake, for the last few years, Caputo has run his PR firm from a small office outside Buffalo. He says having his name dragged into this controversy has been difficult for him and especially for his family, which he says is unwarranted -- Jake.
TAPPER: So, Drew, with all the cushion connections he has, this interview was done earlier in the week. What does he have to say about the revelations of Donald Trump Jr. and others meeting with this person billed as a Russian government attorney with incriminating information about Hillary to help Trump get elected?
GRIFFIN: At the time of this interview, Jake, he knew that the meeting took place. He didn't know the e-mails existed, you know, the emails had been released. But he admits it really does look bad.
He says he was on the campaign at the time this meeting took place. He was close to one of the people in the meeting, Paul Manafort. He said he never heard a word about it before or after. It just didn't come up. He did not know that Russian attorney's name.
TAPPER: Drew Griffin, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Joining me now to talk about this and much more is Republican Congressman Scott Taylor of Virginia.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
Before I get to Russia, I do want to ask you, you're a former Navy SEAL. You fought in Iraq.
Do you think as part of the post-Mosul victory that U.S. troops, whether special operators such as yourself or others, should be part of a hold force to keep Mosul safe, or do you think that that should entirely be from people -- by people in the region? SCOTT TAYLOR (R), VIRGINIA: Well, it's great to be with you, Jake.
You know, thanks for having me, of course, good afternoon. Look, I think -- you know, what comes next in Mosul is going to be important. You know, if there's going to be -- there -- potentially problems there, and that's not just -- not just Mosul, that's also Iraq, that's Syria, what's a post-ISIS strategy. I think that we will have to play a role there in some capacity. I'm not sure exactly what that -- what that looks like at the moment but there's no question that there will have to be some adviser there that are helping the Iraqi army keep that stability and security that they fought so hard to get.
TAPPER: Earlier this week your colleague Trey Gowdy, who a Conservative Republican from South Carolina, he headed the Benghazi Committee, he really expressed a lot of frustration with the Trump White House for the constantly shifting stories and what he called the drip, drip, drip of information. Is it frustrating for you as well, Sir?
TAYLOR: Well, sure, it's frustrating. I mean, some of those are obviously leaks out of the White House, the drip, drip, drip. Some of the stories, of course, are changing. And obviously, listen, let me preface everything by saying, if someone did something wrong, then hold them accountable all the way to the President. But the reality is, if you had some meetings, if you met with some folks, listen, I once, Jake, was on RT News Channel, so, just so you know (INAUDIBLE). Say what you've done, get it out there, yes, it gets frustrating when you have this because I do think that some of this is well, like, it's really overplayed. And I think ultimately, folks that are on the streets, the American people, don't care. They're a little over it.
TAPPER: But the American people do want integrity in our elections --
TAYLOR: No question.
TAPPER: -- and the intelligence community is very clear and unanimous that the Russians attempted to interfere in the elections in 2016. And one of the -- one of the big issues, I think, is whether or not the United States and the Trump administration specifically should try to exact some sort of punishment against the Russians for that. I want you to listen --
TAPPER: -- to an excerpt from my interview yesterday with White House Adviser Sebastian Gorka discussing the Administration's reluctance to punish the Russians at all. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: You don't think it's weak at all to let Russia go after having interfered in the 2016 election with no punishment at all?
SEBASTIAN GORKA, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S DEPUTY ASSISTANT: The last thing you can say about Donald J. Trump after the last 25 weeks is that he's weak. Look at what we've done in Afghanistan.
TAPPER: So what's the punishment?
GORKA: (INAUDIBLE) 5,000-pound bomb. Look at the 59 cruise missile in Syria.
TAPPER: So what's the punishment for Russia?
GORKA: Look at the what we did at the G20. Let's talk about facts. That's not conjecture --
TAPPER: I'm asking you about Russia. What would the punishment be for Russia?
GORKA: Look at G20 -- look at G20. We sat down, the President had a two-hour and fifty minute discussion with Vladimir Putin. He pressed Vladimir Putin on multiple occasions with regard to the question of election tampering. The President of the Russian Federation denied, and at that point you have to move on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Congressman, do you agree at that point you have to move on? Vladimir Putin denies collusion and therefore there doesn't need to be any punishment for Russia?
TAYLOR: Well, let me first say obviously this started under a previous administration, right?
TAYLOR: We both -- we know that very well and the last President probably should have been a little stronger on this. In that specific meeting he's speaking about, yes, if you're -- you know, I mean, the head of the state, the President, our President brought it up several times to Putin, he denied it. You have to move on in that meeting. That being said, yes, you know, the Senate obviously has passed sanctions I believe, and the House will also pass some sort of sanctions, as well too. And let me also say that I think that in this Russia political football back and forth, I think that -- I think that what's missing in this debate is not the rhetoric, the rousing rhetoric of treason and all of those stuff which I think is ridiculous. But, you -- what you have to have here is a policy, a policy that says to other nations, they will not interfere with our election, a Monroe Doctrine in cyber if you will. That's missing from this debate and that's very unfortunate both on the Democrats and the Republicans. We have to come together and we have to set a line in the sand that makes sure that every nation on this earth understands that they will not mess with the integrity of our election. And that's the responsibility of both Democrats and Republicans.
TAPPER: So you support the sanctions bill. You want it to pass the House?
TAYLOR: I need to see the final product, but I think that yes, some sort of sanctions bill is appropriate. TAPPER: All right, Congressman Scott Taylor, thank you, and thank you for your service, Sir. I appreciate it.
TAYLOR: Thank you for having me, Jake. Appreciate it.
TAPPER: A confession after a man's body is found in a grave on a farm, two suspects are under arrest and accused in the murders of several missing men. Stay with us.
[16:50:00] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In our "NATIONAL LEAD," a gruesome quadruple homicide is rattling a small town in the suburbs outside Philadelphia. A short while ago, 20-year-old Cosmo DiNardo of Pennsylvania was charged with the killings of four young men who had vanished earlier this month. The second 20-year-old suspect, Sean Kratz, was also arrested and charged in three of the deaths. Police said that DiNardo shot killed and buried these young men between the ages of 19 and 22, following what it appears to be a botched marijuana deal. Authority says the bodies of the four victims have been found on property owned by the parents of the lead suspect. The suspects allegedly tried to burn the bodies of the victims. Both suspects were arraigned earlier today and now they're being held without bail.
Finally from us in the "NATIONAL LEAD" today, the annual ESPY Awards bring together the world's greatest athletes, but the moment that stayed with us was a celebration of an amateur athlete. The audience gave Air Force Master Sergeant Israel Del Toro a standing ovation when he accepted the Pat Tillman Award for service, for the dedication he had shown for his service and to sports. In 2005, Del Toro's Humvee rolled-over a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. 3rd-degree burns covered more than 80 percent of his body. Doctors at the time gave him just a slim chance to survive, but Del Toro, he fought through, and in 2010 he became the first fully disabled airman to reenlist in the air force. I'm honored to have Master Sargent Israel Del Toro join me now. Thank you so much for being here Master Sargent.
[16:5513] ISRAEL DEL TORO, PAT TILLMAN AWARD RECIPIENT: Thank you, Sir. Thank you for inviting me to come hang out with you guys a little bit.
TAPPER: Don't call me Sir. I haven't -- I haven't earned that status. Let me ask you, you were recently awarded an ESPY in an incredibly emotional moment. How did it feel standing on stage in that room full of some of the most accomplished athletes in the world who are all applauding you?
DEL TORO: It was strange. It really was, because, you know, like I said in my speech, and I don't see myself as anyone special, you know, I was just doing my job. So to be honored especially by you know, Marie Tillman of the Tillman Foundation for this award is just -- it was an amazing feeling because he's someone -- Pat Tillman was someone I admired, you know. He was like players of old that gave up his career to go serve his country, you know, the true meaning of search for self. TAPPER: Yes, it kind of reminds you of like, how people in World War II would leave their very famous careers at home and then go fight, I agree. In 2012, you talked to CNN about the moment that your son saw you after the blast. You worried that he would be afraid of you. Thankfully that didn't happen. It has been almost 12 years since that horrific ambush. What's been the hardest part of your recovery?
DEL TORO: You know, I think the hardest part is maybe I can't really play baseball with my son like I wanted to. I was a big baseball player and yes, I could do what I can with him, but it just -- it sucks I can't really play catch, you know, especially everyone thinks of Father's Day. Father's Day is when you're out in the backyard playing catch with your dad, and you know, I really can't do that. He throws it back at me but throws it at my feet so I can stop and then I pick it up and throw it back at him. But you know, I think that's probably the hardest part out of anything of you know, since my injury.
TAPPER: I'm sure that game of catch is pretty special, even if it's not what you want it to be. You have re-enlisted and you're now serving as an air force training instructor. What is the message that's most important to you to get across to your fellow airmen whom you now mentor?
DEL TORO: Well, you know, my thing is -- you know, don't let little things bug you. You know, as long as you stay positive and clear in your head, you can accomplish anything, you can overcome any obstacles no matter how hard it may seem. You know, just find that spark, find that fire. Like you know, everyone has a different one. Mine was my son. You know, he was my fire, he was my spirit. So that's what I try and tell -- you know, all my airmen, all the cadets there at the Air Force Academy that -- you know, I know it may -- it may suck right now, but just stay positive and you'll get through it.
TAPPER: You were honored at the ESPYS, of course, because of your connection not only to service but to sports. Athletics has become a huge part of your life. Tell us about that.
DEL TORO: Yes, when I was going through my recovery, most of us are very --you know, guys that get wounded, you know, most of us are athletic, and we sometimes think we can't play sports anymore. And that's what I thought also, but when they're introducing me to the adaptive sports out there at (INAUDIBLE) at the center of the -- yes -- CFI --
TAPPER: Whatever it is, it's OK.
DEL TORO: There you go, Center for the Intrepid. Sorry, you get blown up, you forget things, you know.
TAPPER: I understand.
DEL TORO: But -- and they start introducing you to these things, these new sports. I never did track and field, so they said, you can do this, you know, you can do shooting, sitting volleyball, you know, air rifle, precision shooting. And I'm thinking, how am I going to do air rifle and precision shooting? You know, if you look at my hands, I'm like -- I'm missing a couple fingers. They said, no, it gets all adapted. And you start feeling like yourself again. And it was, it's a big part of my recovery to get back out there, face the world and start living my life with my family.
TAPPER: You are an inspiration, Master Sergeant Israel Del Toro. Thank you so much. Thank you for coming on the show, and most importantly, thank you for your service. It's been an honor talking to you.
DEL TORO: Sir, it was my pleasure, and please, call me D.T. that's what all my friends call me.
TAPPER: I will, but you have to stop calling me Sir because that's crazy.
DEL TORO: I'm sorry, I can't help it.
TAPPER: All right, we'll talk soon. Thanks so much.
DEL TORO: All right, thank you.
TAPPER: What a great guy. Tune in this Sunday morning to "STATE OF THE UNION." My guests will be the President's Attorney, Jay Sekulow, Senator Mark Warner of the Intelligence Community -- Committee and Senator Susan Collins. It all starts at 9:00 a.m. Eastern. That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Jim Acosta, in for Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." I will see you Sunday morning on "STATE OF THE UNION." Thanks for watching. Have a great weekend.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Happening now, breaking news, full house.