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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview with Senator Mitch McConnell; State Department Intentionally Edited Video of Press Briefing; Police: Gunman Had "Kill List" Linked To Second Killing; Medical Examiner: Prince Died Of Accidental Overdose; Louvre Museum Shut Down To Evacuate Artworks; Feds At Odds Over Charges In Eric Garner Case. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired June 2, 2016 - 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: And, interestingly enough, a couple years later, you did not vote for Barry Goldwater in the '64 election because he voted against the civil rights bill.
[16:30:03] And you write, quote, "a century of principled advocacy by the Republican Party for civil rights was forgotten the moment we nominated Barry Goldwater as our party's candidates for President."
I know you came from a family where civil rights were important, which was not common necessarily in Kentucky at the time, as you write.
How do you think your party is perceived today by minorities when it comes to standing up for them?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, Goldwater had a lot of other virtues. And in many ways, I hated what happened in Johnson's second term but it did define our party for at least African-American voters. And still does today. That was a complete shift that occurred that year.
We've never been able to get them back. And so I think it was a defining moment for Republicans with regard to the accomplishments that we've made for African-American going back to the civil war.
TAPPER: Do you worry at all that that your nominee now, Donald Trump, will do to Latino voters what Barry Goldwater did to African-American voters?
MCCONNELL: I do. I do. And I think that the attacks that he's routinely engaged in, for example, going after Susana Martinez, the Republican governor of New Mexico, the chairman of the Republican governor's association, I think was a big mistake. What he ought to be doing now is trying to unify the party, and not attacking people.
Once you have won, it's a time, if you can, to be gracious and try to bring the party together. So, I don't agree with everything that Trump does or says but I do know that we have a choice, a choice between two very unpopular candidates. Very unpopular.
TAPPER: You picked Donald Trump?
MCCONNELL: I do, because I know for sure he won't be four more years like the last eight. He will be a change. Hillary will continue the policies of this administration, which I think have been very bad for the country. And so -- and she'll pick the next Supreme Court justice.
TAPPER: What would you do if President Trump calls you up from the White House and says, OK, Mitch, I need you to draft legislation to ban Muslims from entering the United States, which he has called for to happen?
MCCONNELL: I'd say no. I think that's a really bad idea. Most Muslim Americans are patriotic, are great sources for potential radicals inside our country, and if you ban all Muslims from coming into the United States, the king of Jordan who is a great ally of ours would not be able to come to the United States. It's a bad idea and one that should not be pursued.
TAPPER: One of the things in this book that really comes through is your reverence for the U.S. Senate, how much you love it, how special a place you think it is. What would you say to President Obama when he reads this book and says, you know, Mitch, I'm glad you have such reverence for the Senate, how about confirming my Supreme Court justice?
MCCONNELL: The Constitution gives the Senate its own separate responsibility. He gets to nominate them and we get to decide whether to fill a vacancy. You have to go back 80 years to find the last time a vacancy in the Supreme Court in a presidency was filled. You have to go back to 1888 to find the last time a vacancy in the Supreme Court in a presidential election year when it was confirmed by the opposite party.
We know for sure if the shoe was on the other foot, they wouldn't be filling a vacancy on the way out the door.
TAPPER: Well, let me ask you, if the shoe were in the other foot, what would you be doing as --what a Republican president do?
MCCONNELL: Well, I'd be doing my best to try to get them confirmed but it wouldn't happen because no Senate is going to confirm a Supreme Court nominee of the president of a different party in the middle of a presidential -- we're in the process of deciding who the president is going to be.
One thing Trump did do that I do like, he came up with a list of very qualified and credible nominees from which he would likely pick a Supreme Court nominee. I think that was reassuring. I think the Supreme Court is a big issue in this election.
TAPPER: The Senate is theoretically up for grabs, control of the Senate. There's a lot of talk right now about Marco Rubio who says he's not going to run for re-election because he ran for president, and I know there are a lot of people in the Senate trying to get him to change his mind and run for re-election. What do you want him to do?
MCCONNELL: Yes, I'm one of them. I mean, I think Marco is a gifted politician, a terrific senator, would be an important -- important for Florida for him to stay and important for --
TAPPER: He says he's not going to. One of his best friends, the lieutenant governor is running.
MCCONNELL: Well, I hope he will be drafted. Certainly everybody up here wants him to run. I've heard that two of the potential candidates said if he ran they would drop out and do something else. He's a unique figure that ought not to be lost in the public arena, and I hope in the end, he will decide to run again.
TAPPER: Is there a state that you are very worried about losing because of Trump at the top of the ticket?
[16:35:00] MCCONNELL: I'm not, because I think Senate races are big enough to stand on their own. You know, let's assume the worst. Mondale got wiped out in 49 out of 50 states in 1984.
His party gained two seats in the Senate. Bill Clinton got re-elected in '96. His party lost two seats. My side gained two seats.
I think this is going to be a ticket splitting election. I don't think either one of these candidates are going to have the support of people who like they did with Barack Obama in '08, not only are we going to elect you, we want you to be able to do anything you want to. So, they gave him a big Senate majority. They give him a big House majority, do whatever you want to, Mr. President.
I don't think that's going to be the case with either Trump or Clinton.
TAPPER: The book is "The Long Game: A Memoir", it is a really good read.
Majority Leader McConnell, thanks so much for joining us.
MCCONNELL: Thank you.
TAPPER: In our buried lead, an outrageous admission from the U.S. State Department admitting that someone intentionally deleted an unflattering exchange with a reporter from an official briefing video. Who tampered with the tape? That story next.
[16:40:26] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We're back with our buried lead now. That's what we call stories we do not think are getting enough attention, in this case, of course, it's literally someone at the State Department trying to bury something, hiding it from you. In this case, it was an acknowledgement by the Obama administration of having lied to reporters, the scrubbing of a public record and it should outrage every American.
The story begins in February 2013 when James Rosen, a reporter for FOX News, asked then State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland if there had been direct secret bilateral talks with Iran. This was her response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: With regard to the kind of thing that you're talking about, on a government-to-government level -- no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, flash forward months later, December 2013, Mr. Rosen pointed out to Nuland's successor, Jen Psaki, said that senior officials had, in fact, had direct secret bilateral talks with Iran, as Psaki had previously acknowledged.
So, the State Department had lied to him and to you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES ROSEN, STATE DEPARTMENT REPORTER, FOX NEWS: Is it the policy of the State Department where the preservation of secrecy of secret negotiations is concerned to lie in order to achieve that goal?
JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: James, I think there are times where diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: The implication there from Jen Psaki, sometimes governments need to deceive the press and the public to achieve goals.
Now, flash forward to earlier in May, when Rosen discovered that his exchange with Psaki in which she acknowledged that the State Department lied to the public, that exchange had been edited out of the official video of that day's briefing. Now, it seemed obvious that something was afoot, but here is how State Department spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau explained the missing video on May 10th of this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH TRUDEAU, DIRECTOR, STATE DEPARTMENT PRESS OFFICE: There was a glitch in the State Department video.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: A glitch, a defect, a technical malfunction.
Now, flash forward three weeks and here is State Department spokesman John Kirby just yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KIRBY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: You learn that there was a deliberate request, that this wasn't a technical glitch. This was a deliberate request to excise video.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Wow. So, in fact, someone at the State Department asked an editor to go into this video already posted on the State Department website and remove several minutes of it from the archive.
To recap, there was first a lie told us to about the secret talks between Iran and the Obama administration. We'll call that lie number one.
Now, Jen Psaki acknowledged lie number one later that year 2013. But then someone removed that acknowledgement from the official video. Let's refer to the scrubbing as lie number two.
And then, three weeks ago, we were lied to again with the whole glitch thing. We call that lie number three.
When asked who had made the request to delete the video, lie number two, Mr. Kirby said that the editor only knew that the caller was passing on a request from the public affairs bureau. Jen Psaki is now at the White House. She has vociferously denied any knowledge of the edit.
And when asked why the editor complied with the request, this is what Mr. Kirby had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIRBY: There were no rules governing this action in the past. So, again, I find no reason to press forward with a more formal or deeper investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: There are so many questions about all three of these lies, including whether the initial lie had anything to do with the administration-pushed narrative of the Iran deal sold to the public, that this all came about in large part cause Hassan Rouhani, supposedly some sort of moderate, was elected president of Iran in June 2013, after lie number one, which denied the talks were going on before Rouhani was elected.
But before we get into lies number one, two and three happened, the Obama administration needs to understand that it's not acceptable just to leave this where it is. Just as the public has a right to know the truth, we have a right to know who lied to us and why.
In our national lead, a bizarre twist to the UCLA murder-suicide. An apparent kill list was left behind by the shooter and a woman on that kill list was just found dead in Minnesota.
Plus, new details on the death of Prince. What ultimately killed him?
All of that coming up, next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. In our National Lead today. New chilling details on the UCLA campus shooting. We're learning more about the shooter. He was apparently working off a kill list with three people's names on it.
The LAPD names Mainak Sarkar (ph) as the sole suspect, who claimed the life of 39-year-old associate professor of mechanical and aero engineering, William Klug (ph). A husband and father of two little children.
There is more, before killing the man he once described as a mentor and sending the entire UCLA campus on lockdown for hours, the gunman is believed to have killed another person, a woman 2,000 miles away.
Let's bring in CNN national correspondent, Kyung Lah. She is in Los Angeles. Kyung, it appears the shooter had a devious cross-country plan to commit murder. Do we know why he did any of this?
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, LAPD says, Jake, that this all appears to have been cooked up in his mind, that he was delusional. He had written in a blog that he felt that the professor had done him some wrong. He had apparently stolen some code. Police say this appears to have been completely made up but this is what drove a delusional man.
[16:50:04]LAH (voice-over): Police swarming the UCLA campus, a gunman opening fire in the engineering building. Gunned down inside his fourth floor office, UCLA Professor William Klug. His killer, his former student, Mainak Sarkar (ph), a 2013 mechanical engineering PhD graduate, returning in the last couple of days to his old campus say police to kill two professors.
CHIEF CHARLIE BECK, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT: He was only able to locate one. The second faculty member was off campus. Sarkar was heavily armed, he had two semiautomatic pistols, one that he used for the homicide and the other that was in his backpack. He had multiple magazines of ammunition and multiple loose rounds of ammunition. He was certainly prepared to engage multiple victims.
LAH: As police moved into Professor Klug's office, they also found in Sarkar's backpack a cryptic note asking someone to check on his cat. Sarkar had lived in Minnesota. Inside his home, police found more ammunition and what they are calling a kill list.
On that list, Professor Klug's name, the second UCLA professor, who was off campus the day of the shooting and a third name, a woman living in nearby Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.
DEPUTY CHIEF MARK BRULEY, BROOKLYN PARK POLICE DEPARTMENT: They did locate an adult female who was found deceased from an apparent gunshot wound. We believe at this point that she was deceased prior to the UCLA shooting.
LAH: Police say Sarkar killed the woman and then drove from Minnesota to Los Angeles finishing his murderous rampage with 39-year-old William Klug, UCLA professor, husband, and father of two young children.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard to even fathom it to have your son grow up without a dad. It's rough.
LAH: Both guns appear to have been legally purchased. One of the guns was in the gunman's name, the killer's name. Jake, police are asking the public's help in trying to find the vehicle that he drove across the country -- Jake.
TAPPER: Kyung Lah, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
A major headline today in the Pop Culture Lead. The medical examiner in Minneapolis now says superstar, Prince, died of an overdose, specifically today's report says he self-administered fentanyl. That's one of the strongest opioid painkiller that's typically given in patch or candy forms to cancer patients.
It's unclear if Prince had a prescription for it. If you recall staff at the singer's Paisley Park estate found Prince unresponsive in an elevator back in April.
Today's report says Prince had a scar on his left hip and another on his right lower leg. The medical examiner describes it as an accident. Prince was 57 years old when he died. He would have turned 58 next Tuesday.
Coming up, Paris under water. Artwork in Louvre moved to higher ground and it's expected to get worse, coming up.
TAPPER: Welcome back. In our World Lead today, torrential rain and severe flooding have shut down the world's most visited museum. The Louvre in Paris is closed today and tomorrow. Some of the priceless artworks at the museum that were at risk of water damage have been moved to safer places within the gallery.
The Seine River which runs through Paris past the Louvre is continuing to rise with heavy downpour in the city and more rain is expected overnight. Another Paris attraction (inaudible) has also been shut down as a precautionary measure.
The National Lead, new information is coming in on the Eric Garner case. He was the man who died in 2014 after a New York City police officer put him in what witnesses say was a chokehold.
The medical examiner later ruled that Garner's death was caused by, quote, "The compression of his chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police," unquote, and also that garner's poor health was a contributing factor. The indictment ignited months of anti-police brutality protests. The U.S. Justice Department appeared close to bringing civil rights charges, but now that appears in doubt.
Let's bring in CNN justice reporter, Evan Perez. Evan, what's the latest with the case?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Jake, you remember the focus of this investigation has been on whether NYPD Officer Daniel Pantilleo (ph) used excessive force and broke federal law in trying to arrest Eric Garner for selling untaxed cigarettes.
But one state grand jury in Statin Island already declines to bring charges in Garner's death and now in the separate federal investigation, there's a dispute among Justice Department prosecutors and FBI agents over whether there is sufficient evidence to bring civil rights charges in this case.
While prosecutors of headquarters here in Washington favor bringing charges, officials at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn and the FBI do not.
Pantilleo is shown on this video using what witnesses described as choke hold during the Garner takedown. The NYPD bans the use of choke holds and Garner could be heard saying, I can't breathe, in part of the video.
But if you slow down the video, some officials say it's not so clear that there was a choke hold and, if so, for how long, and if it was enough to kill Garner.
Some officials think that the video evidence isn't inclusive enough and officials tell me that this is one reason why these case are so difficult to bring.
Federal law has a much narrower jurisdiction in these types of cases and I should tell you that the Justice Department says, Jake, that his is an ongoing case, that no decision has been made. The officer's attorney says he did nothing to violate Garner's civil rights.
TAPPER: All right, thanks for bringing us up to speed with that. Evan Perez, appreciate it.
An elite fighter jet went down today after doing a fly over, an F-16 from the Thunderbird Squadron crashed south of Colorado Springs, Colorado this morning after buzzing the crowd at the U.S. Air Force Academy's commencement ceremony whether President Obama spoke to graduates.
An aviation spokesman says the pilot of that plane safely ejected and upon returning to the base there he got to meet President Obama.
Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jaketapper or tweet the show @theleadcnn. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
I will be in California tomorrow and we'll bring you some of our exclusive interview with Donald Trump. But right now, I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer who is in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, security threat. Hillary Clinton slams Donald Trump as unfit to be president. Calling him dangerously --