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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Donald Trump Tries to Quell Firestorm Over Judge Remarks; Rand Paul on Supporting Trump; Christie: Donald Trump Is "Not A Racist"; Clinton Hours Away From Declaring Historic Victory. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired June 7, 2016 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:01]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, my interview with former Trump rival Rand Paul.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: It's a huge mistake to categorize people based on their race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to a special edition of THE LEAD, the final, final Super Tuesday in the race.

And we are following some breaking news, Donald Trump putting out a statement moments ago to try to quell the firestorm after he attacked an American-born judge in the Trump University case over his Mexican roots.

Trump says his comments have been misconstrued.

[16:35:00]

Also breaking, Illinois Senator Mark Kirk, one of the most endangered Republican senators, up for reelection in Illinois this year, he just announced he cannot and will not support Trump, saying -- quote -- "Given my military experience, Donald Trump does not have the temperament to command our military or our nuclear arsenal."

Kirk told our own Manu Raju that he will not vote for Clinton. Instead, he will write in General David Petraeus, who I don't think has the security clearance to be actually commander in chief, but, OK, we will move on from there.

I also spoke to former Trump rival Rand Paul earlier today. He shared some similar concerns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Have you endorsed Donald Trump yet? PAUL: You know, when I ran for the presidency, I signed a statement

saying that I would endorse the nominee and wouldn't run as a third party, and I stick by that.

TAPPER: So, you support him becoming the next president?

PAUL: I support the nominee. And I signed a statement saying I would do so.

There's varying degrees of enthusiasm, and I may not be going door-to- door, and I think I have a distinct voice in the Republican Party and I want to keep that. So, I haven't said I'm going to be anybody's surrogate. I'm not out there campaigning, other than trying to make sure my voice is heard and that I win reelection in Kentucky.

TAPPER: What do you make his campaign against the judge, calling him a Mexican, when he's from Indiana, saying that, because of his heritage, he can't be a fair judge?

PAUL: Yes, I think it's a mistake.

I think we can all -- have seen judges we think are biased, and you can complain about their bias if you think they're liberal or this or that, but it's a huge mistake to categorize people based on their race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That's from a visit, by the way, that we did with Senator Paul and some World War II veterans who just made an Honor Flight to the World War II Memorial this week when we commemorate D-Day. And we will bring that to you tomorrow.

But let's stick with politics right now.

Our panel is here.

Nia-Malika, where does this leave the Republican Party, where you have Senator Kirk saying he is not going to support Donald Trump, he's going to write in General Petraeus?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think Republicans who were looking to Trump to see if he was going to change -- after all, a lot of them came out, called this statement a racist, called it bigoted, and essentially said -- I think Lindsey Graham said, this gave Republicans an off-ramp, this statement.

And some people were saying, if other Republicans wanted to rescind their endorsement, this was all the reason to. I think for those Republicans that were looking for an off-ramp, looking for Donald Trump to maybe give them a reason to stick by him, this statement didn't give them that reason. Here he is, he's doubling down.

He's essentially saying...

TAPPER: The statement Trump gave. HENDERSON: The statement Trump gave.

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: He's essentially saying, oh, this was a big misunderstanding.

I think the kind of image of Paul Ryan standing in a black neighborhood on the one hand saying here is our new poverty platform that he's going to put forward in the House, but also saying that Donald Trump said something racist, I mean, that is a dichotomy that you can't really reconcile.

I think it's a real dangerous place for the Republican Party to be at, and Donald Trump doesn't seem to recognize that. I think, in Donald Trump, you have someone who has represented himself. He hasn't represented a constituency ever. He isn't ready to make that turn, where he's ready to represent a constituency and something larger than himself.

TAPPER: David, you have worked for Republican presidents. What would you tell Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan, the Senate majority leader and the House speaker, right now were you advising them and not handsomely paid by CNN?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Save the House, save the Senate at all costs. I think that's what they're doing. I think Mitch McConnell has actually played this pretty well.

He's giving people a lot of room like...

TAPPER: And how do you do that? How do you save the House and Senate?

GERGEN: I think you have to give people who need to distance themselves opportunities to do that, and not expect them to stick with it, because there's a growing feeling this could -- Donald Trump was taking what was fairly a minor story and turned into a public relations disaster.

And that that means, if you go -- if you go and support him now, if you come out for him, look what happened to Paul Ryan. In the morning, he comes out for him. That night, he gets embarrassed by this whole controversy over the judge.

So, that removes all the incentives. Let me just say one thing about the -- Donald Trump put out a statement today, but he did not put out the fire. He issued a statement that did not come to grips with the essential issue. He danced around it, but he did not retract what he said.

This does not boil down, with all due respect, Kayleigh, to whether Trump is a racist. What it comes down to is whether he believes that this judge, by virtue of having a Hispanic heritage or Mexican heritage, is unqualified. His own lawyer, we have learned today, his own lawyer had said in May,

we looked at recusal. We don't think recusal is appropriate in this case. We're not pursuing that.

In fact, they just want -- this judge just gave them a big victory back in May. We all thought -- Eric Schneiderman thought this case was going to come to trial here in the summer, and Donald Trump would be put on the stand, and Schneiderman would like to put him away.

But, instead, the whole trial has been now -- this judge, this -- quote -- "biased judge," postponed it to after the election so it wouldn't interfere with this presidential...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Let me let Kayleigh come in here now.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.

TAPPER: Because you're a Harvard law graduate. Certainly, you, as a lawyer, would not make the claim that Mr. Trump made.

[16:40:08]

How can he be a biased judge if he just made this big ruling in May that was a ruling that Mr. Trump found favorable?

MCENANY: Well, there are a lot of rulings in a case, and several of them came down unfavorably. First, why are you prosecuting someone under a RICO statute, a racketeering statute?

Some people think it's historic extension of the statute. Many other attorneys general have dismissed the case at hand, not even gone there. This judge is entertaining the case. I think he should have missed on summary judgment. Not only that. He unsealed documents in a politically charged environment, then had to reseal those documents because he forgot to redact information.

And I have to take issue with David. This statement directly addressed the issue you said it did not address. It said -- quote -- "I do not feel that one's heritage makes them incapable of being impartial."

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: It contradicts -- and he does not say, I was wrong -- it contradicts what he repeatedly has told Jake and what he repeatedly has told others, that this guy is disqualified because he's a Mexican.

This guy -- his statement is of generality. It does not deal with this guy, with this judge. He has not retracted that.

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: Yes. MICHAEL NUTTER (D), FORMER MAYOR OF PHILADELPHIA: Going back to what

Gloria said earlier, we're in the middle of a presidential race. In 40-some-odd days, the two parties will have their conventions. Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee. We will wait for it this evening for any announcements or whatever with regard to the Democrats. But we're right here.

Why are we talking about your personal lawsuit in this conversation?

MCENANY: Because moderators bring it up every single time.

Donald Trump said last night, every time I walk into an interview, I want to talk about jobs. You know what the first question is out of the moderator's mouth? It's about Trump University.

GERGEN: Only because he lit a fire.

(CROSSTALK)

NUTTER: You learn how to say, I'm not talking about that today.

(CROSSTALK)

MCENANY: You're exactly right. And in this statement, he said I'm not going to talk about it any further, so the onus is now on moderators to not to ask about it?

HENDERSON: Why?

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: Trump was the first to bring up the heritage of this judge. And it wasn't at the prompting of a moderator. It was in a speech when he said, by the way, he's Mexican. And that was in February.

MCENANY: The media is one of the most distrusted institutions.

(CROSSTALK)

MCENANY: And there's a reason for that.

(CROSSTALK)

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm going to jump in on this one, because you're going into a dangerous place here.

The onus is not on us not to ask questions. We are all here because of the greatest gift we have, the First Amendment. We can ask whatever we want. And if the people out there want to make a judgment that we're jerks, that's their right. That's their right.

But Donald Trump cannot say, I issued a statement, therefore, you can no longer ask me about this. That's not the world we live in, not for Donald Trump and not for any candidates.

(CROSSTALK)

MCENANY: The onus is on the media to balance it out.

And yesterday, when Hillary Clinton had her -- quote -- "press conference" for eight minutes, the questions were, I get tearful when I see you becoming the first female president. How do you feel about winning Puerto Rico?

When Donald Trump walks into an interview and has a pre conference, every question out of the press' mouth is something out to get him to attack...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Hold on one second.

Let's bring in Bill Press.

(CROSSTALK)

BILL PRESS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I just want to say, look, cry me a river.

Donald Trump would not be where he is today without the media, without the inordinate amount of free media that he's received.

GERGEN: That's right.

PRESS: So, he ought to be thanking reporters for that.

And, by the way, we know Donald Trump. We know he says, I'm not going to talk about this ever again. That's until the next question is asked.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Let me ask a question of Mary Katharine, in Kayleigh's defense.

Would the argument of reporters like John not be stronger if those ridiculously sycophantic questions that were asked of Hillary Clinton yesterday about, you know, I get so teary when I think about a woman nominee, congratulations on Puerto -- would the -- our case not be stronger if that...

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, 1,000 times yes.

On this, Kayleigh and I agree. Here's the problem. When Donald Trump answers questions and gives speeches and makes himself look like the cartoon of the stereotypical bad conservative that they all think of, that many liberal journalists might think of in their mind when they're posing such questions to, like, that doesn't help the party and it doesn't help him.

But -- go ahead.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Mary Katharine, finish your point and then we have to take a break.

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: No, I just think that, yes, they have -- there are ways that you could build credibility, but this is on him to answer questions in a way that's reasonable. And he's not doing it.

And he does whatever he wants to do at any given moment. That's why every single one of these GOP candidates is looking at this and saying, do I want to ride that Bronco into the election?

TAPPER: And, by the way, just to give you a little -- a teeny bit of insight as an interviewer, I actually was preparing a whole bunch of questions about substance, about immigration, about terrorism, about trade.

And then he said this thing to "The Wall Street Journal" the Thursday before the interview in which he doubled down. And I felt like I had to ask, because he had just said it.

So, in that way, I think you maybe would agree when we go to commercial that he's his own worst enemy sometimes.

We're going to take a quick break. You can agree after the -- we -- we cut away.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: We're awaiting Bernie Sanders speaking live from California, even as voters are still going to the polls there. Will he keep up his pledge to fight on all the way to the convention?

And the New Jersey primary, we're forgetting the garden state, the second biggest prize of the night. They've got great full serve gasoline in that state. We're counting down to when the polls close there just a short time from now. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Donald Trump under attack by almost everyone in his party except New Jersey Governor Chris Christie today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I know Donald Trump. I've known him for 14 years, and Donald Trump is not a racist. So, you know, the allegations that he is are absolutely contrary to every experience that I've had with him over the last 14 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [16:50:06]TAPPER: All right. The governor of New Jersey. Let's go to our panel, let me go to the guy from right across the river. Mayor Nutter, Chris Christie vouching for his buddy Donald Trump.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, mean, they're friends, he's known him for 14 years. That means nothing in the context of whether the statement is a racist statement. So I don't know what's in his heart. I don't know Donald Trump. Met him once, you know, was a meeting.

He said something that was racist he needs to own it, understand it, apologize for it and then move on. I think that's what David said. He made a statement, he didn't put out the fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I say about Chris Christie? If he's known Donald Trump for 14 years, he knows he's not an attorney. OK. And Donald Trump's attorney as David made the point earlier has said this judge is doing a pretty good job.

TAPPER: That was in May, he said, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. And he said --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, this is June.

TAPPER: Well, because in the recent days -- but in recent days he released this material. I mean, I think that's the thing Donald Trump's mad about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To the important point that his attorney said they'd looked at the possibility of recusal and they decided that was not appropriate because this judge, OK, even in May was doing a good job. The attorney hasn't come out since then and filed a motion of recusal. So Donald Trump ought to shut up and listen to his lawyer.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICALY ANALYST: Well, you know, Chris Christie is a former AG, a lawyer, clearly didn't want to go there.

TAPPER: Former U.S. attorney, yes.

BORGER: U.S. attorney, sorry. U.S. attorney. Didn't want to touch this with a ten-foot pole. It was clearly obvious to me. And what's available to other people, other Republicans who have said they would endorse the nominee that is not available to Chris Christie is Chris Christie's not going to back off of his endorsement of Donald Trump nor is he going to tiptoe around it because he was out there first.

And I was talking to a Republican strategist today who was involved in a lot of Senate and House races. And he said to me, here's what I'm telling my clients, I am telling them that you can renounce Trump all you want as a candidate, just don't tell anybody that you're going to support Hillary Clinton. Crossing that line would be the danger.

And so when we heard from Senator Kirk today, what did he do? But he didn't go to the Clinton saying, he went to the Petraues thing and this is what you're going to hear over and over again but not from Chris Christie.

DAVID GERGENS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: In fairness I think Chris Christie's got a point. His experience -- and to the mayor's point. I don't think there's evidence that Donald Trump is a racist. I think the statement is the problem.

Not his general character. And his friend has come to his defense, good for him. I don't know Donald Trump well. But I must tell you I've never experienced any racism on his part.

I don't think that's the issue whether he's a racist. I think the question is the statement is inflammatory, he ought to walk it back and take it back and retract it.

TAPPER: And by speaking of what we were talking about just a minute ago, we were planning on spending a great deal of the show talking about all the turmoil in the Democratic side, but Donald Trump issued that statement at the top of the hour and bringing more attention and oxygen to this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And apparently he's never going to talk about it again probably until tonight when he has a press conference.

TAPPER: Until Anderson's show at 8:00.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly. I think another problem for Donald Trump is how many Chris Christie's will there be, right? We know Chris Christie could be on the short list for the VP. It's probably being whittled down as we speak.

Are there going to be other people who really offer a full throated defenses of Donald Trump, people who are in establishment, people, Republicans elected officials, who's going to be on the stage in Cleveland other than Chris Christie saying wonderful things about Donald Trump --

TAPPER: Jeff Sessions --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He refused to comment about this today too.

TAPPER: Jeff Sessions who is his number one Senate supporter.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think there are two questions. Right now, we have a conflict, what Donald trump said in "The Wall Street Journal" and then repeatedly in the interview with you.

Right, that's sort of the seminal moment because you kept asking him that. What he said there and what he said in a paper statement, well, if there's conflict between paper and what passed a politician's lips, I think we have to stick with what passed his lips until he takes it back. So that's the problem Trump is in right now.

TAPPER: Let me just do a quick thing with Bill right now. Bill, if Hillary Clinton after the polls closed this evening and the results come in has a majority of pledge delegates and majority of Democratic voters support, should Bernie Sanders continue to stay in the race until the convention in the hopes that superdelegates will flip the result?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's what I would --

TAPPER: Yes or no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it's not a yes or no. Go back to Vermont and figure out what you want. What you want out of the convention, what you want out of the platform, what you want out of the rules, what you want down the road and figure out -- by the way this is all based on his winning California too.

I think if he's got that he's got a lot of leverage. Figure out how much leverage you've got and then make that decision. Whether you get more for what you want getting out now and endorsing Hillary, in a couple of days. It doesn't have to be tonight or fighting for every fight on the convention.

TAPPER: In 20 seconds, Mayor Nutter.

[16:55:03]NUTTER: I expect Senator Sanders will stay through the race. People in Washington, D.C. still want to vote and then I think you flip to what Bill said figure out what you want, bring our party together. Let's stay focused on the goal putting a Democrat in the white house in November.

TAPPER: Thanks one and all for a great and spirited panel, especially thank you to you. I know it's difficult on days like this to serve as the Trump surrogate on the panel where the advocates are. We are counting down the first polls are about to close. Stay with CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: And that is it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I will be back in just a short bit at 7:00 p.m. Eastern for more of our special coverage of today's primaries. It goes all the way until 3:00 a.m. Eastern.

I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper. They are right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, making a statement, Donald Trump weighs in again on the judge he's been slamming. We have late details --