Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

North Korea Crisis; NBC Fires Matt Lauer; Trump Calls Kim Jong- un "Lil Rocket Man" and A "Sick Puppy"; South Korea Monitoring Threats Ahead OF Winter Games; Key Vote On Tax Bill Expected In Moments. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 29, 2017 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:33:03]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We're back with more breaking news in the pop culture lead.

What may very well be the biggest Household name in morning television today taken down by sexual harassment allegations and his own behavior. Moments ago, we learned of at least three other women now describing sexual harassment by Matt Lauer to "Variety" magazine. Lauer now joining the ranks of Charlie Rose and Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey and Mark Halperin and Bill Cosby and Bill O'Reilly and Roger Ailes, and added to the list today, Garrison Keillor, dropped by Minnesota Public Radio.

A group of powerful men in entertainment and media with tarnished resumes all stained by various misconduct allegations, most from women coming forward saying they too were victims of inappropriate sexual behavior, if not worse.

I want to bring in Gretchen Carlson. She's a former FOX News anchor and author of "The New York Times" bestseller "Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back."

It was her sexual harassment lawsuit against FOX News chair Roger Ailes that led to his ousting and many say began this wave of other accusers coming forward.

Gretchen, always good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

What makes Lauer's case different in any way, or is it just common like all the others?

GRETCHEN CARLSON, FORMER FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I think what makes it different is that it was handled so swiftly and that the accuser who came forward just Monday night was actually believed.

I mean, that would have never happened, Jake, 16 months ago, when I jumped off the cliff, ever.

TAPPER: That's interesting. There are women in this "Variety" story who say on background that they had complaints and brought them to NBC, and they were ignored.

But this new woman, this new allegation, you think in this new environment, that's what made the difference.

CARLSON: Totally.

You know, but I do think that companies really have a lot of introspection to do right now, and it's not just highfalutin media companies. It's every company across America that needs to grapple with this issue.

They need to look deep inside of the way in which they conduct business and the way in which they cover up, because from what I have learned in researching my book and putting together all the stories from thousands of women who reached out to me, there is a lot of covering up going on across America, and especially when they're rich and powerful men.

[16:35:03]

TAPPER: I want to listen to Lauer pressing Bill O'Reilly about the allegations against him shortly after O'Reilly was fired from FOX News. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT LAUER, FORMER CO-HOST, "THE TODAY SHOW": You were the guy that the ratings and the revenues were built on. You carried that network on your shoulders for a lot of years.

So doesn't it seem safe to assume that the people at FOX News were given a piece of information or given some evidence that simply made it impossible for you to stay on at FOX News?

BILL O'REILLY, FORMER HOST, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": That's a false assumption.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Kind of weird listening to that now.

CARLSON: It is.

And I actually questioned the fact that Matt Lauer actually did that interview with Bill O'Reilly at the time. You know, we spend a lot of time talking about how are we going to rehab alleged predators and when will they land their next job?

What we should be doing is talking about hiring back the thousands and maybe millions of women who through their own courage and bravery and coming forward have lost their careers.

The majority of the women that I feature in my book, Jake, have never been able to go back to their chosen professions. They have had the American dream taken away from them. And that is outrageous.

TAPPER: You know, it's -- you bring that up, and it's one of the things I think about all the time when you read these stories about women harassed or assaulted by Harvey Weinstein who decided not to go into film.

CARLSON: Right.

TAPPER: Women who worked for Bill O'Reilly were harassed by him, left journalism. Same thing with Mark Halperin. It's absolutely heartbreaking, the women's whose lives just completely changed and their behavior just changed.

And Ronan Farrow has written about some of these actresses who kind of just vanished or at least weren't as big stars because they were so affected by the trauma they experienced by a harasser or an assaulter.

CARLSON: I mean, isn't that absolutely outrageous? I know you have a daughter. You have a son. I have a daughter and a son. Everyone who is watching who has children, do we want this for our kids?

The automatic answer is no. And that is why I'm so proud of any man or any woman who has found the courage in the last 16 months to also come forward. I don't care how much time has passed. This is about people finally having a voice.

And I think that this is a cultural revolution. We are watching empowerment at its best. And I don't think it's going to end any time soon.

TAPPER: One of the things that's interesting, though, is this tsunami, this culture change going on right now that's affected everywhere, every corner of the media, every corner of Hollywood, and the repercussions are going to keep coming.

It doesn't really seem to have hit politics yet, because there are people who have multiple sexual harassment settlements or at least allegations and plus, of course, all the allegations against President Trump. You have Roy Moore in Alabama with credible accusations that he molested a 14-year-old and assaulted a 16-year-old.

Why are politics right now impervious? Is it just because of the political tribalism?

CARLSON: Well, here's what I say to that question, which is, sexual harassment is apolitical.

Before anyone decides to harass you, they don't ask you what party you're in. And we have seen titans from both parties fall. Here's what I would like to say today. The fact that you choose to believe certain women based on what your politics are is crazy.

You can't just say, I'm going to believe this woman over here because I'm a Democrat and I'm going to believe this woman over here because I'm a Republican. That is so disingenuous.

We as a nation have to come to terms with the fact that men and women from both sides of the aisle are perpetrators. And we have to also come to terms with the fact that we need to believe women from both sides of the aisle. Now, politicians can't be fired unless the voters decide to do that.

They can also be asked to resign, and we're watching a lot of big cases right now. And that jury is still out on whether or not those men should resign.

I also believe that we should take away the curtain from these secret payments that have gone out using taxpayer dollars, and we should find out, who were the perpetrators in those cases? The taxpayers, you and I and everyone else, deserve to know that.

TAPPER: President Trump tweeted something about Lauer, it was observed earlier today on my show, that his inability to see that when he goes after Al Franken or Matt Lauer on these issues shows a tremendous lack of self-awareness.

You tweeted: "Really? You can't pick and choose the women you want to believe. Look in the mirror."

But President Trump and his supporters don't seem to -- they seem to make an exception for him and the many women who have accused him credibly of allegations ranging from harassment to assault.

CARLSON: That's what I'm saying.

Look at this amazing political divide that we find ourselves in, in this nation in 2017, that people in Alabama, even if the allegations were 125 percent proven to be true against Roy Moore, say that they would still vote for a child predator, allegedly, instead of a Democrat.

I mean, that's where we are in 2017. What happened to human dignity? And the same for the Trump accusers. Whether we're at 16 or 17 or 20, they are all liars?

[16:40:04]

I mean, we can't pick and choose based ON what our political bent happens to be. This is a cultural issue for all of us. This is not a Republican, an independent, or a Democratic issue. And we all need to care about it.

And this is what I'm lobbying for on Capitol Hill right now, Jake, and I think you know about this. I'm very close to introducing bills to take the secrecy out of forced arbitration. And my main goal is to make sure that it's bipartisan.

And I'm incredibly optimistic that I will be introducing this in the House and the Senate in the next couple of weeks.

TAPPER: Amazing. Well, you will have to come back and tell us about that when that happens.

Gretchen Carlson, always great to have you on. Thank you so much.

CARLSON: Jake, thank you so much. TAPPER: President Trump just moments ago calling Kim Jong-un a sick

puppy, as the U.N. Security Council is about to hold an emergency meeting on the North Korean threat.

That story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[16:45:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These massive tax cuts will be rocket fuel -- little rocket man -- rocket fuel for the American economy. He is a sick puppy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: That was President Trump moments ago mocking North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un during a speech on taxes. Dog insults of particular note in Korea, North, and South. The United Nations Security Council is about to hold an emergency meeting after North Korea conducted its most advanced missile launch to date. CNN's Will Ripley is in Seoul, South Korea. Will, North Korea warned today that any American city is within striking distance. Are there any signs that another test may be imminent, either a missile or a nuclear test?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, North Korea has been warning of a seventh nuclear test. Of course we don't know when that's going to happen, but language like what we heard today from President Trump, reviving the rocket man insult and adding in sick puppy for good measure certainly doesn't help the path towards a diplomatic solution here especially considering that .comparing somebody to a dog is a grave insult in North Korean culture. Of course, the North Korean they have called President Trump a mad dog and a frightened dog and he dished it right back today. But we'll see how they respond to it, either in actions or in words.

TAPPER: How is North Korea responding to the threat of new sanctions from President Trump?

RIPLEY: Defiantly. You know, antagonizing rhetoric against the President. They, again, they put out a statement today calling him an old lunatic. They mention, in fact, that adding North Korea back to the list of state sponsors of terrorism which might be an indication that this missile launch was at least in part a response to that move by President Trump. And then, of course, the big question moving forward is what will North Korea do as the Olympics are approaching, just about two months away in Pyeongchang, here in the South Korea, the Olympic Games?

North Korea now back on the list of state sponsor of terrorist and they were put on that list in back in 1988 in part because North Korea was linked to the bombing of a Korean airliner just before the Olympics and what was believed to be a terrorist attack in an attempt to scare people from coming to South Korea for the summer Olympics in Seoul back in 1988. So, of course, the fear now, will North Korea try to do something provocative time at around the Olympic Games to frighten people around this very important international event for this country?

TAPPER: All right, Will Ripley on the Korean Peninsula for us, thank you so much. Joining me now is Richard Haass. He's President of the Council on Foreign Relations. He's also the former Director of Policy Planning for the State Department under President George W. Bush. Ambassador Haass, thanks for joining us, as always. The president, as you heard, called Kim Jong-un little rocketman and a sick puppy. Does that hurt the U.S. in trying to convince the North Koreans to give up the weapons program or at least come to the table?

RICHARD HAAS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, there is zero chance even if he called him terms of endearment that North Korea is going to give up its nuclear weapons program. What I think it does though is reinforces their instinct that they need this for their protection. It probably makes it a little bit more difficult for us to rally international support because we're not exactly occupying the high ground. And probably most seriously, Jake, if there is an incidents, for example, North Korean and U.S. planes come into close proximity or something at sea, this is a truly poisonous relationship now and it becomes all that much more difficult for these two governments to manage an incident and prevent it from turning into a real crisis.

TAPPER: What do you think President Trump might mean when he says the U.S. will, "take care of or handle North Korea?"

HAASS: I was listening to that as well. I don't know what it means. It sounds a little bit like bravado. But we're fast coming to the point where there's only going to be two options, one is to use military force and all of that would entail, the risks and the cost or living with North Korea and essentially basing our security on deterrence. What seems to be fast closing is the window for diplomacy to stop North Korea before they achieve a mature ability to attack us.

TAPPER: Now, there are a number of vacancies at the State Department that might have an effect on this conflict. There's o permanent Ambassador to South Korea. There is no Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs or unfilled post in the Arms Proliferation Division. President Trump was asked about all of these vacancies recently. Here's his response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm a business person and I tell my people, well, you don't need to fill slots, don't fill them but we have some people that I'm not happy with their --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But Assistant Secretary of State you're not getting rid of that position.

TRUMP: Let me tell you, the one that matters is me. I'm the only one that matters because when it comes to it, that's what the policy is going to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now you worked at the State Department. What do you make of that?

HAASS: Well, look, the President is the decider at the end of the day but this is someone who came into this office without any real experience with foreign policy or government. The same thing applies to the Secretary of State, so why they would deny themselves expertise? At the end of the day, they don't have to listen to it. They can do what they want, but why wouldn't they avail themselves of people who have been on the ground for 30 or 40 years who have wrestled with the last two bouts of diplomacy with North Korea. There's a lot to be learned. That's why you have institutional history and memory. So I just don't understand why we would essentially fly blind here. I'll be honest with you, Jake.

[16:50:20] TAPPER: I want to show some live pictures of the U.N. Security Council which is just convening right now to deal with this threat. The French Representative to it the United Nations said that this crisis is worse in scope and scale than it's been and it's gotten that way in just the last few months. Is that true? Do you agree?

HAASS: I do. And I think people underestimate how severe it is. Again, I'm less worried about a boat from the blue from North Korea. That's not on the top of my list. There is a possibility the U.S. may choose to use force, but, again, as I mentioned before, I really am worried about the ability or lack of it of these two countries to manage an incident. You think about something like the Cuban Missile Crisis and what a close run thing that was. Do we really think this administration and this North Korean government, which aren't talking directly, would have the ability to tamp something down if it were to happen? I'm not so sure.

TAPPER: You say yesterday what's need is a, "serious diplomatic effort to freeze weapons testing." If you're North Korea, which has thus far refused to negotiate, why would you agree to a weapons freeze? They made it pretty clear that they're going to keep going until they have an ICBM that can carry a nuclear warhead to the United States.

HAASS: Well, it's a fair question and they may not. One thing, though, would be if you coupled with certain incentives. For example, an end to the state of war that has been the case now since the Korean War in the early '50s, possibly with some sanctions relief, possibly with some adjustment to the annual U.S.-South Korean exercises. That might be something they would want or maybe they would put certain limits on the capability they develop. I'm not saying it would solve the problem, but it's certainly worth exploring.

And if North Korea rejects it, we can face the two choices of using military force or living with a larger North Korean capability. We can face them squarely and we can say to our own people, we can say to the world, we tried. We offered North Korea a reasonable compromise. They swatted it away. They left us with no choice. If I were advising the President, I would remind him that sometimes you offer up diplomatic ideas, not only because you're sure they're going to be accepted but because they clarify and then they help you galvanize domestic and international support.

TAPPER: Ambassador Richard Haass, thank you so much, as always. Good to have you on.

HAASS: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: The President selling the Republican tax plan to the American people today in Missouri. In any moment, a key vote on that bill, that story next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: And we're back with the "POLITICS LEAD." Today, Republicans are one major step closer to making their tax bill a reality. Any moment now we expect to see the Senate hold a key procedural vote. That's expected to pass. It's not the final vote but as Republicans inch closer to that moment, Senator John McCain, the same man who dramatically gave the thumbs down on the ObamaCare repeal vote earlier this year today didn't sound so confident about this tax cut bill. CNN's Phil Mattingly is live on Capitol Hill. Now, Phil, I'm old enough to remember that McCain voted against the Bush tax cuts because he said they were too heavily weighted towards the wealthy, but analysis shows that these Trump tax cuts are more heavily weighted towards the wealthy. So he's up in the air.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, there's a good reason why a senior Republican aide told me rather bluntly, we can't let this come down to McCain. They recognize that they just don't know where he's going to be. Jake, over the last 24 hours, we've seen a lot of on the fence Senators get a lot more comfortable with this plan. Senator John McCain, well, take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have anything to say about the tax bill that you (INAUDIBLE) yet?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I haven't decided yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You haven't decided. I know you said that you wanted to --

MCCAIN: I haven't decided yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think the process --

MCCAIN: I haven't decided yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: And, Jake, it's not just the proportionality in terms of where the tax cuts go, it also is the deficit. McCain is a proclaimed deficit hawk, very concerned about how much this would add to the deficit. But it's worth noting there -- while McCain is still on the fence, there are a lot of other Senators that appear to be coming around. Behind the scenes right now, Jake, I'm told there are a series of fixes in place to deal with some of the other deficit hawks, to deal with people like Susan Collins who had some specific asks and to deal with Senator Ron Johnson who has of yesterday was considering stalling the plan out altogether.

Now, there's commitments and there's deals and then there's actually putting pen to paper. That's what we're waiting for right now. Once those things come forward and whether or not they can pay for them, that will decide whether or not they actually get this across the finish line. At this point, Republicans feel good but they know, Jake, there is a lot more work to do.

TAPPER: Yes, and what exactly is the state of play right now? When might we see that this procedural vote and then when might we see the final vote?

MATTINGLY: Look, once you have this procedural vote, there's going to be a lengthy floor process, but right now, Republicans leaders trying to target Friday. They know how this whole process of reconciliation works, the (INAUDIBLE), all the good stuff we saw during health care right now. But the key is getting these amendments done, making sure the amendments can get to the floor and then letting Democrats more or less slam away at them with their own amendments for a lengthy period of time and then trying to close the deal by the end of the week. Again, the process right now is all about what they're doing behind the scenes, making sure those amendments to make those Senators happy are queued up. If they get that ready to go, if those are locked in, they will get this done in the next couple of days. Jake.

TAPPER: Wow. Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill for us, thank you so much. Thank you for watching. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can twee the show @THELEADCNN. That is it for THE LEAD today. I'm Jake Tapper, turning you over to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in the sit room -- "THE SITUATION ROOM" I should say, not sit room. Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, pushing conspiracies. President Trump publicly promotes the GOP Tax bill --