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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview With Former Texas Governor Rick Perry; Louisiana Flooding; Trump in Milwaukee. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired August 16, 2016 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The self-proclaimed law and order candidate leaping right into the fire today.
THE LEAD starts right now.
Just a couple of days after tempers flare into actual flames on the streets, Donald Trump takes his campaign to meet with law enforcement officials in Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, the FBI sending notes of their interview with Hillary Clinton to Congress.
A Democratic senator saying the Obama administration is fighting a war that you're not even paying attention to, one that might create a whole new generation of terrorists out to attack us in the future.
Plus, for many who lived through Katrina, it's almost like living in a horror movie sequel. Nine people dead now, thousands on the run, tens of thousands of homes all gone as catastrophic floods swallow Baton Rouge.
Welcome to THE LEAD, everyone. I'm Jake Tapper.
For the second day in a row, Donald Trump is focusing on law and order today in Milwaukee meeting with veterans and law enforcement officers, amid a wave of protests in that city, after an African-American man who police say had a gun was shot dead by an African-American police officer.
Trump is trying to hone in on an issue where aides believe he can beat Hillary Clinton, even as Democrats are calling some of his foreign policy policies from his speech yesterday un-American.
CNN politics reporter Sara Murray joins me now.
Sara, despite that blowback, the Trump campaign believes focusing on safety issues will help him in this campaign.
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they do believe they can get the upper hand over Hillary Clinton on this issue, essentially making the case that if you're a voter that doesn't feel safe and secure now, why would you vote for Hillary Clinton, and sort of painting her as just a continuation of President Obama's policies.
And that's why we're expecting to see Donald Trump any minute now meeting with veterans and law enforcement in Milwaukee.
MURRAY (voice-over): Donald Trump is hitting the trail in Wisconsin today, hammering home his claim that he's the top choice for voters looking for law and order.
Trump's event with members of law enforcement in Milwaukee, a city recovering from clashes after police shot and killed an armed man over the weekend, coming just a day after he delivered a foreign policy speech laden with promises to defeat ISIS.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My administration will aggressively pursue joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS.
MURRAY: But sparse on the details of how Trump would accomplish that aim as president.
As the GOP nominee looks to bolster his foreign policy credentials, sources tell CNN Trump will receive his first classified intelligence briefing Wednesday in New York. It's a primer that has already caused heartburn among some lawmakers and former intelligence officials wary of looping in a freewheeling candidate on sensitive information.
It comes just days after Trump reiterated his call for closer ties with Russia.
TRUMP: I also believe that we could find common ground with Russia in the fight against ISIS. Wouldn't that be a good thing? Wouldn't that be a good thing?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MURRAY: One of Trump's aides seizing on the news that Russia sent warplanes from Iran to target ISIS in Syria as a positive signal.
Trump social media head Dan Scavino tweeting: "Another Donald Trump idea becoming a reality? Russia going to bomb ISIS at the moment."
Trump has faced blowback throughout his campaign for his calls to partner with Russia and his past praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Now he's looking to turn the tables. The Trump campaign blasting out a statement to highlight Clinton's ties to Russia and claiming she and her allies sold out American interests to Putin in exchange for political and financial favors.
The fiery attacks sure to play out further on the debate stage, an area where ousted FOX News chief Roger Ailes may be lending a hand. Sources tell CNN he has been in talks with Trump about debate prep and other campaign matters.
But Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks is denying Ailes' involvement in Trump's debate prep, saying: "They're longtime friends, but he has no formal or informal role in the campaign."
MURRAY: Now, Wisconsin isn't necessarily friendly territory for Trump. The latest polls show Hillary Clinton with a pretty wide lead there. But he's working to turn that around.
He's going to be with Reince Priebus today, the RNC chairman, as well as Wisconsin believe Scott Walker. And in a FOX News interview, Trump said he is actually feeling good about the state of the race and the size of his crowds. Whether those will turn into votes, we will see, Jake.
TAPPER: Sara Murray, thanks so much.
Let's bring in a former Trump foe turned friend, former Texas Governor Rick Perry
Governor, thanks so much for joining us, as always.
RICK PERRY (R), FORMER TEXAS GOVERNOR: You're welcome, Jake.
TAPPER: Mr. Trump is meeting with law enforcement officers in Milwaukee today amid protests after a black police officer shot an armed black suspect.
Now, this is obviously a complicated case, as many of them are. But Mr. Trump has been criticized, even by some of his allies, for not reaching out more to the black community. When you ran for president, you had a pretty stark warning for the Republican Party. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: For too long, we Republicans have been content to lose the black vote because we found we didn't need it to win.
But when we gave up trying to win the support of African-Americans, we lost our moral legitimacy as the party of Lincoln.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Do you think Mr. Trump needs to heed your warning, sir?
PERRY: Well, I think Donald Trump is doing a very good job of standing up for the men and women who wear the blue uniform, the police officers.
And speaking of that Wisconsin event, it occurs to me that there is video that makes it pretty clear that the police officer was in the right.
So, with all that said, reaching out to different communities has always made sense. I think, when you look at what Barack Obama has done economically and otherwise, the African-American community in America is worse off than it was when he took office.
Your common sense would have told you, if you had an African-American president, he would have done some things to make life better for African-Americans, but that is not the case.
So, I think if you want four more years of what Barack Obama has given the African-American community, Hillary Clinton is your candidate. But Donald Trump is laying out economic policies. He is laying out security. He is laying out military issues that I think will resonate with men and women in the African-American community.
TAPPER: But Hillary Clinton, whatever you think of her and her policies, she was in Philadelphia today reaching out directly to many in the African-American community.
And I guess the question is, a lot of people who support Donald Trump, some of his African-American supporters, say he is not doing anything to reach out directly to African-Americans. And you were sounding the call on that issue just a few months ago.
PERRY: Well, I think when you talk about the criminal justice issues and where the African-American community finds itself today, is that that system has failed them, and has failed them greatly.
What we did in the state of Texas by putting policies into place that, the drug courts, et cetera, so that young African-Americans in particular were not ending up in our prisons because of nonviolent drug-related offenses, give them some second opportunity, if you will, and I think Donald Trump is all about that.
I think Donald Trump is about not seeing our criminal justice system being one where we're throwing people in jail for years and years, where they become real professional criminals in the jailhouse, and then they got out, and that's all they know.
So, I don't think that -- I mean, Bill Clinton was one of the individuals that passed the law to make our laws tougher on individuals. Three strikes and you're out, the mandatory sentencing, that all came from Bill Clinton.
So, why would you want the wife of the individual who has made it worse on you as a community? And I just -- I don't see the logic in that. And African-Americans are tired of having the Democrats take them for granted that, hey, listen, African-American community, we're going to vote for a Democrat. Why?
TAPPER: Well, I guess the point I was making is because they're showing up and asking for their vote.
PERRY: Well, I think we show up and ask for their vote, but I think you have got to look at the record.
Is that all it takes? If just a Democrat shows up and asks for their vote, that is enough? I don't denigrate the African-American community and say that that is all it takes. I think they want to see action. They want to see some real economic opportunities. They want to see somebody that is going to reform criminal justice laws that don't throw their kids in jail for nonviolent drug-related offenses. And that's Republicans across this country that are doing that, not Democrats.
TAPPER: One thing I wanted to ask you about, when you were running for president, I pointed out that you and Senator Lindsey Graham were the only veterans of all of the candidates running for office, Democrats and Republicans, except for Jim Webb, of course.
And since that time that I saw you last at the Republican Convention, Mr. Trump alienated some voters, as well as Republican officials, by going after the Khans, that Gold Star family whose son, Captain Humayun Khan, was an Army captain killed in Iraq.
As a veteran, what did you make of that controversy?
PERRY: What I made of it was that Mr. Khan is the one that went out and struck the first blow.
And, in a campaign, if you're going to go out and think that you can take a shot at somebody and not have incoming coming back at you, shame on you.
I think the Democrats used him in a way that, quite frankly, I'm not sure that I approve of.
We love our veterans. We love our Gold Star families. But the fact of the matter is, Mr. Khan politically used his time on that stage to go after Donald Trump. Why in the world he thought that he was going to get a free ride with that is beyond me.
He shouldn't get a free ride when he's going to when he inject himself in the political arena.
TAPPER: Well, I don't think anybody is saying that he should not be criticized, but, as a political leader...
PERRY: Then what is the conversation then?
I mean, if what you're trying to do is say Donald Trump is a bad man because he took on a guy that took him on in a political back-and- forth, that is the way this process works.
Because he had a son that was lost in this war against terror, I mean, that gives him a free ride to say whatever he would like against a candidate that he is not for?
That is not proper. That is not correct.
Nobody has done anymore for our veterans, I will suggest to you, than I have. I understand this. I wrote a letter a week from 2003 through 2010 to a Texas family that lost a loved one, a child, a husband, a spouse. I understand this. I know the heartache that goes with that.
But don't use that and go after a political candidate and think you are going to get a free ride because of it.
TAPPER: All right, Governor Rick Perry, thank you so much. Appreciate it, sir.
PERRY: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: One prominent Republican senator seems to be feeling the Trump backlash. Will she lose her seat because of her lukewarm support of the Republican presidential candidate? That story next.
[16:15:43] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Some breaking news in our politics lead. Notes from the FBI's interview with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are now in the hands of Congress. The FBI released those notes to the House Oversight Committee this afternoon. The committee staff says it is currently reviewing the classified. This as more polls show Clinton widening her lead over Donald Trump, so much so that her main super PAC is pulling TV ads from key three swing states, Virginia, Colorado, and Pennsylvania.
Let's bring in CNN senior Washington correspondent Joe Johnson who is in Philadelphia.
Joe, Clinton is in this key battleground state, Pennsylvania, for two days in a row now.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake.
And I've got to say when you look at the state of Pennsylvania, she is ahead in the polls by large numbers, but the campaign says as a state, they have to keep their eye on, up around Scranton where Mrs. Clinton was yesterday. Donald Trump has been surprisingly strong in the polls. And here, around West Philadelphia, there are concerns about voter registration. That's what the campaign was focusing on today.
JOHNS (voice-over): Hillary Clinton campaigning today at a Philadelphia voter registration event, hoping to turn out African- American voters in record numbers.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We want you all to register to vote. We have places to register because we don't want you on the sidelines come November.
JOHNS: Clinton courting the black vote, a day after vying for white working class voters, alongside Vice President Joe Biden in Scranton, Pennsylvania, trying to hold on to the battleground state that has gone to Democrats in every presidential election since Bill Clinton won it in 1992. CLINTON: It is so great to be back in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
JOHNS: Clinton today reminded of the e-mail controversy casting a shadow over her campaign. The FBI releasing a new report to Congress detailing why it recommended no charges be filed against the former secretary of state over her use of a private email server. The report also includes notes taken by the FBI during witness interviews.
While classified, it keeps the controversy alive for Clinton while offering Donald Trump another talking point against her.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Hillary Clinton lacks the judgment --
JOHNS: The Clinton campaign saying they prefer that report be released publicly rather than by someone with political motives against Hillary Clinton.
But Clinton is polling very well in key battleground states like Virginia, a new "Washington Post" poll finds Clinton ahead of Trump by eight points there, 51 percent to 43 percent, among likely voter. In fact, Clinton is doing so well, her super PAC, Priorities USA, is pulling ads in Virginia, along with crucial states, Colorado and Pennsylvania, for| much of September.
AD ANNNOUNCER: Priorities USA Action is responsible for the content of this advertising.
JOHNS: The group telling CNN, Clinton's early success on those states means they can focus their attention and cash in states where it's more needed.
And the Clinton campaign is already putting together a transition team, announcing former Colorado senator and interior secretary, Ken Salazar, will lead it.
Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta writing in a statement, "While our campaign remains focused on the task at hand of winning in November, Hillary Clinton wants to be able to get to work right away as president-elect."
JOHNS: And Mrs. Clinton was asked on the rope line today about the latest development in the e-mail controversy. She said she had not to say -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Chris Christie, of course, heading up the transition team for the Trump campaign.
Joe Johns, thanks so much.
Growing concerns among Republicans that Donald Trump may be casting a long shadow on those heated down ballot races.
Case in point, New Hampshire's incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte. She is feeling some of the heat there. She is more than one- half dozen Republican senators whose fate is critical to keeping the Republican Senate majority this fall.
Let's bring in CNN senior political reporter Manu Raju.
Manu, Senator Ayotte, obviously in a very difficult spot here, in a state where Donald Trump is not doing well in the general election, but it's a state that he won handily in the primary.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Jake.
[16:20:00] She actually needs those Trump supporters to come out to the polls, but also need those same voters who've been turned off by Donald Trump's rhetoric.
RAJU (voice-over): Donald Trump putting Senate GOP candidates in a bind. Nervous about his inflammatory rhetoric and declining poll numbers, Republicans still need his core supporters to help their narrow senate majority.
In New Hampshire, Republican Kelly Ayotte is keeping her distance from Trump even though he won her state's primary by nearly 20 points.
(on camera): You're saying you support Donald Trump, but you do not endorse him?
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I've said that I'm going to be voting for him, but I do have significant disagreements with him, which I have been very clear on. So, I won't be endorsing him.
RAJU: What's the distinction between endorsing and voting?
AYOTTE: There's actually a big distinction. Everyone gets to vote. I do, too. And, you know, but an endorsement is one where I'm out campaigning with someone.
RAJU (voice-over): Other GOP incumbents are running away from Trump, like Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois and Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey.
SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I'm going to see how this plays out and see if Donald Trump can earn the support of Republicans like me.
RAJU: But other vulnerable senators are more willing to embrace Trump because they believe he can turn out the vote, like Rob Portman of Ohio and Richard Burr of North Carolina. And in Florida, Marco Rubio who once called Trump a con artist told the "Miami Herald" Monday that he stands by those remarks. But he still backs Trump.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I have my own identity, I have my own positions on issues, and I'm not going to be out undermining him or anything of that nature because I don't want Hillary to win.
RAJU: Back in New Hampshire, Ayotte is trying to campaign on her battles with Trump, where one poll has him down 15 points.
AYOTTE: Whoever is in that corner office, whether it's my own party or the opposite party, if they're doing something that I don't agree with, that I don't think is right for New Hampshire, I'll stand up to them.
RAJU: And GOP believes that Hillary Clinton's own liabilities will hurt Democratic candidates, like Ayotte's opponent, Governor Maggie Hassan.
(on camera): Do you think she is honest and trustworthy?
GOV. MAGGIE HASSAN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I support Hillary Clinton for the presidency because her experience and her record demonstrate she is qualified to hold the job.
RAJU: Do you think she is honest?
HASSAN: She has a critical, critical plan among others for making college more affordable.
RAJU: But do you think that she is trustworthy?
HASSAN: I think that she has demonstrated a commitment always to something beyond herself, bigger than herself.
RAJU: Now, Jake, afterwards, Maggie Hassan's campaign gave me a call and said she actually does believe Hillary Clinton is honest or trustworthy. It shows both presidential candidates can put some of those down ticket candidates in a bind -- Jake.
TAPPER: Some pretty -- those are pretty direct questions.
Manu Raj doing the lord's work there in New Hampshire -- thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Tens of thousands of homes and businesses taking on water. The flooding that few saw coming is now affecting more than we first thought. We'll show you scene on the ground and from the air, next.
Plus, hospitals ad a school bombed and a war you may not even know about. Is the U.S. supplying the weapons that are committing these atrocities?
[16:27:42] TAPPER: Welcome back. I'm Jake Tapper.
Let's turn to the national lead now.
For several days, a true disaster has been unfolding in Louisiana, after devastating floods. At least nine people have been killed nearly 30,000 other Louisianans are living in shelters, many lost everything they own to the flooding. Today, President Obama declared disaster areas of eight more parishes,
making 12 total eligible for federal aid. One of the hardest hit Livingston Parish, more than 130,000 people there, and the sheriff there flooding destroyed or damage 75 percent of the homes and businesses. Some houses took on 12 feet of water, 12 feet.
CNN's Jennifer Gray made her way to Livingston Parish and she joins me now live.
Jennifer, many of these people don't live in flood-prone areas and they never saw anything like this coming.
JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Never say anything like this coming, and even the people who live in those flood-prone areas never thought it could get this high either.
Look here, in the trees. You see the dust on the streets or the dirt, and then you see the green leaves, that's the water line where I'm standing. Sunday morning, that's how high the water was and they say it rose quickly four feet within an hour and most people were sleeping.
GRAY (voice-over): Watermark's 12 feet high mark a haunting reminder of Saturday night, when the worst flooding that this area had ever seen left destruction at every turn. When the water started rising in Denham Springs, it came up fast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's 8 1/2 feet off the ground. We took 10 1/2 feet of water, that's what they say. So, 16 inches in the house.
GRAY (on camera): On the second floor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the second floor.
GRAY (voice-over): Danny Perecinan (ph) was out of town during the flood, his neighbor took these pictures, a foot and a half of water in his second floor, soaking everything.
Walking in today, this is what's left. The flood of '83 was considered the worst ever, that was nothing compared to this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We never thought we would see another '83. This is 6 1/2 feet over '83.
GRAY: Between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning, the water rose nearly four feet in about an hour. Terry Fielder (ph) knew he had to do something.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't think I had even a minute to go back and shut my front door, I just immediately jumped in and took off. I started blowing the horn right there and I just leaned on the horn all the way.