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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Facebook Murder Manhunt; Trump Filling the Swamp?. Aired 4:30- 5p ET
Aired April 17, 2017 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CRISTINA , CNN CORRESPONDENT: Trump allows that, so long as the former lobbyist isn't working on the same issues.
Look, both presidents granted waivers. They made exceptions to their own policy, according to "The New York Times" and ProPublica. But Obama made those waivers public.
And it's unclear if Trump will do the same thing. Look, this follows a theme of less transparency from this White House. Just last week, the White House doesn't plan to publish visitor logs. That set off ethics hawks who say the public should know who is coming and going and possibly influencing the government, especially important in this administration, because it's relying on the private sector so much, both for advice and staff.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, Jake, but the activity needs to be checked. And I'm sure you remember this, that, you know, Trump trolled Obama back in 2002 for not -- 2012 for not releasing certain information.
We have a tweet from him from back in that year saying, you know, what are you hiding, that sort of thing, and now he's trying to shield himself from additional scrutiny.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And are there specific examples of former lobbyists now working for the Trump administration or the White House?
ALESCI: There are. "The New York Times," which did this reporting with ProPublica, cites two specifically.
Michael Catanzaro, who is an adviser on domestic and environmental policy, he was a registered lobbyist just last year. And one of his clients was an energy company. And his disclosure form says he worked on EPA regulations related to methane emissions. Now he's working on policies that might impact his former client.
The second person is Chad Wolf. He's a senior official at TSA and last year he was lobbying for a company that made technology to enhance carry-on luggage screening. And the TSA is now testing that technology.
Again, these examples are important because they illustrate how business can impact public policy and maybe even benefit from it, and the public needs to know how all of that is happening, so there's going to be ate lot more reporting around this. Reporters are definitely keeping tax on these individuals and their past and future roles.
TAPPER: And those waivers are not being disclosed to the public, as the Obama administration did.
Cristina Alesci, thank you so much.
We have lots to talk about with the political panel.
Let me start with you, Ruth.
I mean, first of all, it almost feels like any time President Trump does something controversial, you can find a tweet from three or four years ago where he's hammering President Obama for doing the same thing or a lesser offense.
RUTH MARCUS, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Not just one tweet. I mean, pick your tweet. It's an array of them, whether it's on the golfing or the transparency or anything else. God bless Twitter and its archive.
This is really rather brazen, is the word that comes to mind, and not so much the bringing lobbyists in. Every administration discovers that actually the people who are experts in policy areas turned out to be lobbying, whether for businesses or for nonprofit organizations or for whoever.
It's the failure to disclose the waivers, the granting of the waivers. We don't know how many. And then sort of compound that with the other transparency failures, in particular the news that broke so conveniently over this holiday weekend about not making public the visitor logs, because there's just -- visitors to the White House.
There's no excuse for that. And the asserted excuse that it would save money is just laughable on its face.
TAPPER: Do you think Trump voters will care about this? And when I say Trump voters, I mean, the 35 percent of the electorate that's with him no matter what, still enthusiastic? The drain the swamp, that got a lot of applause during his campaign rallies.
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think there's an expectation this among Trump's strongest supporters that he's going to have to do things a little bit differently than the past, and it's going to ruffle some feathers.
And if that means pulling back some things that Obama did that sounded nice, well, that's fine. And so I think he would be able to spin this as, look, I'm trying to bring in people from the private sector who understand these industries, who understand them better than government bureaucrats and people who have been running them for the last few years, and I think there's a chance that that argument would work that folks that are Trump die-hards.
TAPPER: Except, of course, Molly, what happens often is, in addition to -- so you have a lobbyist and then they come into the administration, and then the administration ends up doing something that might be tied to what the lobbyist used to do.
And then the person often goes back to the same lobbying firm or goes to work for the company that hired the lobbying firm. Usually, it's more than the hiring that gets people in terms of these scandals.
MOLLY BALL, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, and the Trump administration did try to plug the end of the revolving door.
They did issue an executive order saying that once you have been in the administration, you can't go back to lobbying. That supposedly was actually deterring some people, some qualified people from going to work in the administration.
We will see if they actually implement it, given that they seem to be ignoring a lot of their own, you know, stated goals or things that they that they -- that he said he was going to do or things he criticized the last president for in practice.
I do think that this idea that he was going do drain the swamp had a lot of resonance on the campaign trail.
BALL: I talked to so many Trump supporters who felt it was really important that he was going to get rid of the sort of permanent political class, the cronyism that they perceived in Washington.
So, to be bringing in outside people, people from the private sector, I think they would absolutely say that was a good thing. But to the extent that this feels like business as usual, that's not what people expected.
MARCUS: That's going to be the part that seems hard to spin, and valiantly as some might try.
And, you know, it was President Trump who on the campaign trail, I think, thought that drain the swamp was originally hokey, and then he found out how much it resonated with people. If it resonated with people then, I wonder if there isn't going to be some blowback now.
TAPPER: In fact, I think he compared it to how Sinatra originally didn't like, but then came to love "My Way."
TAPPER: Right. It was like, I didn't like it at first, but now the crowd loves him. That was him and drain the swamp.
It is the time of the year that so many Americans dread, time to pay taxes. Sean Spicer at the White House briefing today was asked about whether or not the president would disclose his taxes this year, given that he has refused to do so in previous years. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Is it time to say once and for all the president is never going to release his tax returns?
SPICER: We will have to get back to you on that.
QUESTION: I mean, really?
SPICER: No, I said I would have to get back to you on that. I think that he's still under audit. The statement still stands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: He also said the president's 2016 returns are still under audits. Tax Day, of course, is tomorrow.
First of all, I still don't know, is there evidence, Molly, that the president actually is under audit? I know his lawyers wrote a letter, but has the IRS ever produced a shred of evidence that he actually is under audit, as opposed to just not wanting to release his returns?
BALL: Not to my knowledge. I don't know that that's ever been definitively proven, no.
But I don't think the IRS would be permitted to provide that evidence.
MARCUS: Of course, his lawyers could provide whatever they wanted.
TAPPER: A letter from the IRS that the IRS...
MARCUS: A letter from the IRS.
But, I mean, I think can I answer for the question that Jon Karl asked. No, the president is never going to release his tax returns, for the reason that people in the administration understand that he got away with not releasing them, and it didn't seem to cost him the presidency, and what would be the benefit of releasing them now?
BALL: Well, there's shifting rationales, because on the one, you do hear them saying what Spicer is still saying, that the audit is the excuse.
On the other hand, you have that rationale that you just articulated coming from the president himself seemingly in the tweet, that the election was a referendum on this issue, the voters decided it didn't matter, therefore, we've put the issue to rest.
But it was interesting to me on a micro level to sort of hear Spicer go back to the old audit excuse in the presser today.
SOLTIS ANDERSON: My sense is that you're seeing Trump make changes in his position or the direction of his administration where he feels he's being punished in the court of public opinion.
You have seen shifts away from, say, the Bannon wing on things like his frustration around the rollout of the travel ban, because I think he felt that that looked like his administration wasn't working well, like that that was a bad look for him.
But I think to the point that you both made, that at no point has this tax return issue had a cost for him politically, and so as a result do I think that he's going to do a 180 on this? Absolutely not. I think he does these changes of direction when he senses that they are either creating a payoff or some kind of problem in the court of public opinion.
MARCUS: Though there's a majority of people who say he should release them in the polls.
SOLTIS ANDERSON: Certainly, but can you find 80 percent, 90 percent of people that say they support campaign finance reform. I can find 80, 90 percent of people who they say they support universal background checks for guns.
There are all sorts of issues where you have huge levels of consensus in public opinion, but not a lot of political will because the folks that are the most energized on the issue are not that 80 to 90 percent.
And I think, in this case, yes, you have may have huge numbers of people saying I want to see Trump's tax returns, but are they actually going to change their vote because of that view? I don't think so.
TAPPER: Great discussion.
Interesting, but I'm going to have to file my taxes no matter what.
Ruth Marcus, Molly Ball, Kristen Soltis Anderson.
TAPPER: I will show you later. Thank you so much.
A manhunt for the alleged Facebook killer is expanding to five states, from Indiana to New York, the suspect recording the murder of an innocent grandfather, then posting it on social media -- the latest on the search and the schools that were closed down today because of the search next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:40:03]
TAPPER: We're back with breaking news in the national lead today.
The manhunt is expanding now for the so-called Facebook murderer, and the Cleveland mayor moments ago saying there is now a $50,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Steve Stephens, who police say shot and killed 74-year-old Robert Godwin, a grandfather and father of 10, apparently at random in Cleveland on Sunday, and then he posted the shocking video on Facebook.
Today, the Philadelphia School District told us that more than 30 schools were locked down as authorities chased unfounded reports by police that the suspect was in the area, and people in five states have been warned to be on alert.
CNN's Brynn Gingras is live with us in Cleveland, where this all started.
And, Brynn, police still know where this alleged killer is. And people who knew him, they say they are baffled by this.
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, baffled because we're talking about a man who mentored children.
He was actually helping young adults who are in the foster care system transition into the work force. So, friends, family, people who have talked to investigators, they can't answer the question as to why he did this, authorities saying only he can provide those answers.
And, right now, police all across the country are looking for him.
[16:45:14] CALVIN WILLIAMS, CLEVELAND POLICE CHIEF: We don't want people to panic.
GINGRAS: A manhunt spanning several states tonight. Investigators looking for any information that could lead them to this man, 37-year- old Steve Stephens, suspected of gunning down 74-year-old grandfather Robert Godwin. Godwin was walking home from Easter lunch with his family and apparently picked off the street at random as target of Stephen's rage.
ROBERT GODWIN, ROBERT GODWIN'S SON: This man right here was a good man, and I just hate - I hate that he's gone, you know what I mean. I don't know what I'm going to do. It's not real.
MALISA GODWIN, ROBERT GODWIN DAUGHTER: I feel like my heart is going to stop.
GINGRAS: Godwin's family coming to grips with the horror that struck Sunday afternoon. Adding to the shock the fact that the suspect recorded the deadly shooting and posted it on Facebook. In the video, Stephens calls himself a monster with built-in anger and frustration. He orders Godwin to speak his girlfriend's name and explains she is the reason for the crime. The girlfriend telling news outlets that Stephens was a good guy and that she doesn't know why he would have killed in her name. Stephens also claims in the video to have snapped and killed 13 people, but authorities have found no evidence of any more than one victim.
WILLIAMS: Unfortunately, there's been one fatality, one homicide on this entire scenario and we want to keep it that way.
GINGRAS: Authorities say, detectives did speak to Stephens directly via cellphone early on in the investigation with no success.
WILLIAMS: They tried to, of course, convince him to turn himself in, and, of course, that hasn't happened to date. So, again, we're asking the public's help in finding this guy.
GINGRAS: We know that Stephens had a concealed carry permit, and we also know from authorities they have recovered some weapons at places they've searched as part of this investigation. I can tell you what, though, Jake, there are billboards all across the city with his face on them and likely in other cities across the country with this inscriptions, Stephens is 6'1" and 244 pounds, he's bald with a full beard and investigators do believe that he's possibly still traveling in that same car that he left the crime scene from. A while Ford Fusion. Jake?
JAKE TAPPER, CNN THE LEAD ANCHOR: All right. Brynn Gingras, live for us in Cleveland, Ohio. Thank you so much. Let's turn now to our "WORLD LEAD" and a growing crisis in Venezuela, the country's Defense Minister today vowed that the armed forces will be backing socialist President Nicolas Maduro who order troops into the streets today. Protesters have been gathering for two weeks or so amid deadly violence in which at least five people have been killed and hundreds more injured in clashes with riot police. Just last week, the Venezuelan government banned popular opposition leader Henrique Capriles from office. The Venezuelan people have suffered quite a bit under President Maduro. Food and medical supplies are scarce and the socialist government routinely cracks down on dissidents calling out the country's abysmal human rights record. In February, CNN en Espanol was pulled from the airwaves in Venezuela after the network broadcast a report on passports being illegally sold on the black market there. Freelance journalist Stefano Pozzebon a reporter is in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas. Stefano, what's the latest on the ground where you are?
STEFANO POZZEBON, FREELANCE JOURNALIST: Hello, Jake, yes. Latest word on the ground is the calm before the storm. Both movement, both the Chavismo who are currently in power and the opposition are looking forward to call on the people on the street next Wednesday who are both will have massive marches and protests on the case of the opposition. It's interesting to look at the vocabulary where the opposition is calling for the mother of all march while just a couple of hours ago, the Vice President of the socialist party, the Chavista have called for a mega-march on Wednesday. So both movements are gathering strength to march on the streets of Caracas next Wednesday and see what will happen if the opposition manages to oust President Maduro from office. TAPPER: And how big a factor is the economic and humanitarian crisis
playing into the excitement and the energy behind these protests?
POZZEBON: It's a huge factor. It cannot be understated. These people have been suffering from the greatest economic crisis that Venezuela has gone through in its history in the last three, four years. Of course, the (INAUDIBLE) of oil prices has had much to do with it, but it's also the massive mismanagement and the (INAUDIBLE) that this government has been responsible for. So the big question is, will the opposition manage to gather strength from the barrier who are just behind me? Those houses that you can see in the background, they are really poor people and so far they've been supporting Maduro, but now it seems that the momentum is switching.
TAPPER: All right. Stefan Pozzebon in Caracas for us. Stefano, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
POZZEBON: Thank you.
TAPPER: He's facing decades behind bars for political cartoons such as this one, Critical of the Turkish President. Why this is just one sign of the disappearing democracy for a U.S. ally.
[16:50:00] TAPPER: More in our "WORLD LEAD" now. Turkish voters passed a historic referendum over the weekend giving sweeping powers to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Just a short while ago, Turkey's state news agency reported that President trump Called his Turkish counterpart to congratulate him. Unofficial results show Erdogan with a razor-thin victory to reform the constitution to expand his own powers significantly. The Turkish President will have the unprecedented power to bypass parliament to reform and regulate government branches as well as to appoint or remove senior officials. But President Erdogan's victory is also sparking strong condemnation in Turkey and around the world. Turkey's main opposition party is demanding a recount alleging widespread voter fraud. The state-run media is also being slammed for its slated coverage in favor of President Erdogan. Amid the consequential developments, Turkey reportedly is now extending a three-month extension to the state of emergency that went into effect after a failed coup attempt last July. And this brings us to our "BURIED LEAD" today which we call stories that are not getting enough attention. Since the attempted coup, more than 40,000 people in Turkey have been arrested, many of them critics of the Erdogan government. Among them is Musa Kart, a world-renowned cartoonist arrested last October facing accusations of being part of the coup and supporting terrorist. Can you imagine having such disdain for freedom of expression and freedom of the press that you would jail a cartoonist? Well, in Turkey, a member of NATO, a U.S. ally, President Trump just called, well, it's not something that citizens have to imagine.
[16:56:00] TAPPER: Turkey is now entering a new era with more power for President Erdogan and fewer freedoms for those who dare voice opposition to his policies. Hundreds of activists, academics, artists and journalists have been ousted from their positions or arrested in recent months. Their fates now less certain than ever.
DAVID KAYE, UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR: This moment could change the face of Turkish government for years to come, and yet it's happening at a time when individuals, the voters of Turkey have less and less information upon which to base their votes.
TAPPER: The man behind these powerful images protesting Erdogan, editorial cartoonist Musa Kart, was indicted days before Sunday's historic referendum. And more than 160 days after first being imprisoned.
TERRY ANDERSON, CARTOONIST RIGHTS NETWORK INTERNATIONAL: In exercising their rights to freedom of expression, they find themselves being placed on a continuum with criminals.
TAPPER: According to the group Cartoonist Rights Network International, Kart faces 29 years behind bars for his cartoons. The charges are, quote, "abusing trust" and quote, "helping an armed terrorist organization." Charges that Erdogan takes seriously.
ANDERSON: It's entirely possible that with these new powers, he could put the measure of the death penalty to another referendum and if successful that penalty could be added to the docket.
MUSA KART, CARTOONIST: We will continue writing and drawing because this is our job.
TAPPER: When Kart spoke to CNN in 2015, his famed editorial cartoons for the June Hurriyet newspaper had already made him a high-profile target for Erdogan twice.
KART (via translator): Everyone knows that for the past ten years, the space for the press has increasingly slunk. Opposition voices are harder express.
TAPPER: After President Erdogan faced an attempted coup last year, Kart and many of his newspaper colleagues were arrested and have been effectively silenced ever since. At first, the newspapers dealt with Kart's arrest by leaving his space in the newspaper intentionally blank, and then fellow cartoonists from around the world stepped up to fill that space and social media with protests. One artist drew Kart and his colleagues as canneries in a democracy coal mine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He hasn't lifted a weapon. He hasn't supported terrorists. It's for cartooning and for being involved in a political process. If you can be blamed or accused of anything, it's - I think of believing that the Turkey had become a democratic state to which the rule of law would apply.
TAPPER: Following the referendum, Kart's family spoke to CNN on his behalf writing, quote, "the yes vote succeed by 52 percent. The people have given them a message and hope they will read this message well. From now on, all power will be in the hands of one person, one person who will be responsible for all anti-democratic practices, too. As a result, we may say our burden has increased in the struggle for democracy."
TAPPER: We have reached out to the Turkish President's office as well as the Turkish Embassy in the United States. They did not respond to us. Ronald Reagan once observed freedom is never more than one generation from extinction. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jaketapper or you can tweet the show @theleadcnn. One programming note for us next week. We are going to be marking President Trump's first 100 days in office with a special primetime of - primetime edition of THE LEAD. In addition to our regular 4:00 p.m. time, we'll also be on at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. That is a one-week treat for you starting Monday. We hope you'll join us. That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He's right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: Happening now, threats of war. North Korea warns the U.S. said that a nuclear war could break out at any moment as tensions rise on the Korean peninsula, after President Trump's military actions in Syria and Afghanistan. What options are on the table? No more patience.