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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Mother Calls Out Coverage of Son Brushed by Vice President; White House Refuses to Discuss Potential Oval Office Taping. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired May 15, 2017 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KAREN TUMULTY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think one event to watch very, very carefully this week is what happens when the deputy attorney general goes up to Capitol Hill and has this all-senators briefing, because he's going to -- he's probably going to argue that the department has the resources to conduct this investigation, and he's probably going to get his ears pinned back by a lot of senators.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: So, just technically, to set up an independent committee, that would require Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan to go along with it. There's no indication that they are.
To set up a special prosecutor or a special investigator of any sort, that would require the Justice Department to go along with it, and there's no indication that that would happen either.
MICHAEL SCHERER, "TIME": Specifically the deputy attorney general, because Attorney General Sessions has recused himself...
SCHERER: ... from the Russia investigation.
TAPPER: I mean, I heard him say that he was going to.
TAPPER: But last week, he didn't seem like he was doing it.
SCHERER: He argued -- and I'm not defending this argument -- but he argued that the dismissal of Comey had nothing to do with what the president later said the dismissal of Comey had to do with.
SCHERER: So that was his justification at the time.
But, yes, it would be separate. The question then would whether it would -- it could work in concert with the ongoing FBI investigation. A special prosecutor could continue to work with the FBI, just like the current Justice Department can continue to work with the FBI.
There seems to be the argument that's being made by defenders that the FBI case, the ability to pursue this case would somehow be weakened, but that's not necessarily true. It depends how the special prosecutor decided to pursue the case.
TAPPER: Ana, you have been critical of your party, of your fellow Republicans for being pretty quiet about this.
ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: To me, it feels like they have fallen prey to a Donald Trump cult.
They are ceding their loyalty, not to the Constitution, not to the country, not to their constituents, but to this president of their party, but who wasn't even a Republican until a few years ago.
They are so desperate to want to play, to want to be invited to dinner at the White House, that they are willing to remain silent in the face of a president who is attacking our institutions.
I thought what James Clapper said to you yesterday, that our institutions are being attacked externally and internally, was spine- chilling. And it's something that we should take so seriously.
This president started off by attacking the intelligence community. He has tweeted against judges. He has tweeted an intimidation to Sally Yates on the day of her testimony. He has tweeted a veiled threat to the former FBI director.
So I have to ask Republicans over and over again, what is it going to take for you to wake up and realize that your duty and your obligation is to country, not to this one man? How far does it have to go? What does he have to do for you to wake up and speak up and do what you need to do?
TAPPER: And, earlier today, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, was asked repeatedly again, what about this secret tape system that President Trump alluded to, wrote about in a tweet, in a tweet threatening Director Comey?
And once again, Sean Spicer stonewalling, a term that was first used, as far as I could tell, during a different tape controversy.
TUMULTY: I know.
Just the sheer kind of tone deafness of raising tape -- whether it's in quotes or not -- was extraordinary, and it really does speak to, if these tapes exist, we have court precedents that say that Congress has the ability to demand them.
But, sometimes, you wonder whether the president is really -- has that good of a grasp of history and context when he does these things. You get the sense that he's really just sort of acting out of whatever his gut is telling him to do in the moment.
TAPPER: And speaking of that, Michael, we learned from a great piece in Politico today that one of the reasons why President Trump says some of these things that are not true is because staffers are able to get fake news, actual fake news, and put it in front of him, such as some report from some person saying that the deputy chief of staff, Katie Walsh, is leaking.
I never knew her to leak anything. And all of a sudden, she's fired. There was a report, in this report in Politico, that the deputy national security adviser put something out there, a fake "TIME" magazine cover from the '70s suggesting that, back then, in the '70s, "TIME" magazine had a cover story hyping global freezing.
SCHERER: Right. Yes. Yes, we never did that story with the penguin. I think it was actually had a 1990s cover with some -- a new headline put on it.
You know, when I was with the president a week ago Monday, a week ago, he was bragging about a Newsmax article. And I remember thinking about myself, well, that's interesting he's reading Newsmax, he's finding time to read Newsmax.
But I do think the people around him know, as the Politico story reported, that you need to feed him a certain amount of good news, because especially in these last few weeks, he's been in a pretty foul mood. The map that we have all seen, the county-by-county map of the counties he won compared to Hillary Clinton, which basically shows a red United States, I have seen it on the Oval Office desk.
It was in his private study. It's something he's keeping copies around to sort of cheer him up as he goes through his day. And they recently hung a copy of it on the wall.
The problem is, a lot of good news right now is not true news.
TAPPER: No, no, it's fake.
SCHERER: It's fake.
And it is concerning, especially when you have someone who is so proud of being a gut player, who likes reacting in the moment to where things are. He's bragged for years that that's his talent, that he -- his gut is great.
If he's acting in the moment on information that's not true, that could have pretty serious consequences.
TAPPER: And we know that that happened with the wiretap, with the fake Obama wiretapped Trump Tower thing.
TUMULTY: And there's -- it's worth saying, there's a job in the West Wing, it's one of the most crucial jobs that you never hear of, called the staff secretary.
That person's entire job is to control the flow of paper into the Oval. And there doesn't seem to be anybody doing that job in this White House.
TAPPER: Ana, listen to this from the Politico story.
"White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus issued a stern warning at a recent senior staff meeting: Quit trying to secretly slip stuff to President Trump. A news story tucked into Trump's hands at the right moment can torpedo an appointment or redirect the president's entire agenda."
And we saw that with a story that was a Breitbart summation of a Mark Levin rant that President Trump apparently misunderstood and suggested that Obama had wiretapped him at Trump Tower.
NAVARRO: Look, but the bottom line is that kind of feeding of fake news to the caged lion that is our president, who is sitting there and stewing over stories that he sees on cable news, is not going to change until the president himself says, let us respect the chain of command and do not put things on my desk that have not been cleared.
That's just not going to change until he himself realizes that there needs to be some discipline in this White House. What we're seeing is a White House that's consumed with drama. It feels like every week we hear about some person that is about to get fired, whether it's Steve Bannon one week, Reince Priebus the next, Sean Spitzer this week.
Just name your operative. Some do end up getting fired. And it just contributes to this ambience and feeling that the country has that this is a White House and a government in crisis, and, you know, that they just can't find their footing, and they are doing things from the hip, just shooting from the hip without any discipline, without any truth, and living in an alternative world filled with alternative facts.
TAPPER: All right, Karen, Michael and Ana, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Be sure to tune in tonight for a special live town hall with the leader of the Democratic opposition in the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. CNN's Chris Cuomo will moderate the live event starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
And then, tomorrow night, I will, with Dana Bash, moderate a live debate on health care and other issues with Ohio Governor John Kasich and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. That starts tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
The vice president accidentally brushed him in the face, and one little boy reminded Vice President Pence to mind his manners and apologize. But now his mother is upset, and it has nothing to do with the very gracious way the president handled the situation. What is she upset about?
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
On our national lead, we have some breaking news. People say that two people, the pilot and co-pilot, have been killed in a plane crash in New Jersey involving a small jet. The FAA says the Learjet 35 crashed with while approaching Teterboro Airport.
Just over an hour ago, witnesses recorded video of black smoke and flames pouring from the crash site. The flight had taken off from Philadelphia International Airport. There is no word on the victims' identities or if anyone else was on the plane.
We will bring you that information as we get it.
Also in our national lead today, it was a charming moment that went viral, but then went wrong. It started last Tuesday when Vice President Mike Pence gathered with military families at the White House.
It was an event to celebrate National Military Appreciation Month.
Ten-year-old Michael Yee was accidentally brushed as Vice President Mike Pence tried to acknowledge all the wonderful kids in the room. He gave Michael a high-five when it was all over.
But the little boy thought he was owed an apology. And he was persistent, and the vice president, frankly, handled it quite graciously.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL YEE, 10 YEARS OLD: Excuse me? Excuse me? You owe me an apology.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm very sorry. I didn't mean to bop you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Vice President Pence apologizing there, giving the Michael a hug, again, a light-hearted moment, charming, until a few days, on another network, when this happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess we're giving birth to snowflakes now, because that looked like that kid needed a safe space in that room.
QUESTION: Is there -- is this a different time or not?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, it is a bit. I mean, look, an 8-year-old, to pretty much stalk the vice president afterwards, he felt aggrieved because, I don't know, the vice president maybe slightly touched his nose. It's pretty amazing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, listen, feeling is, someone told him how to teach that apology. (END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Regular viewers of THE LEAD know that military families often turn to us when they feel that they have been wronged.
And that's the case with Michael's mother, Dr. Ingrid Herrera-Yee.
She joins me now.
Thank you so much for being with me today.
A lot of comments about Michael from people who don't know him. Why don't you tell us about Michael?
DR. INGRID HERRERA-YEE, MOTHER OF MICHAEL: Well, Michael is 10 years old.
He is on the autism spectrum. He's a military child. And he loves the White House. He called it the people's house. He was excited to go visit.
For those who don't have a child with autism, they need to really rehearse. And a lot of their therapy involves practicing social interactions.
TAPPER: How long has he been verbal?
YEE: Only five years. So, about half of his life, he's been verbal.
So, that was -- when you see that video, you see a kid who is working hard to...
YEE: I see a champ, yes.
TAPPER: A champion, to say somebody did something, and he thinks an apology is owed.
YEE: Absolutely, because, for him, it was about manners.
You owe me an apology. It's not meant in any sort of negative way. It's just him learning, again, the social interaction with someone else, so what is appropriate to say, what isn't, and we teach him about being, you know, having his manners and apologizing if he's done something wrong. So he was simply following, you know, what he's learned in therapy and what his wonderful teachers at school have taught him and what we've taught him at home just to you know, make sure that there's an apology there, and he was so sweet about it. Just excuse me, you know, he wasn't -
TAPPER: No, he was wonderful. He was very charming. And I assume you thought that until Friday night the media coverage seemed respectful and look at this charming moment and the Vice President was wonderful. YEE: The Vice President was wonderful. My son was so excited to be
there and meet him. He was a big fan of the Vice President because he commanded the room. He didn't - he doesn't know about politics. He was hanging out, having a good time. They gave him ice cream and brownies, you know, he had fun. And the Vice President was so respectful, he gave him a hug at the end, he gave him a high-five, he apologized when he noticed. It was no big deal. It was just a cute little clip.
TAPPER: And then, what happened Friday night? When did you find out about this attack of your 10-year-old boy?
YEE: Well, I'd actually gotten a call from my mother who had seen a teaser, and she had told me that they're going to talk about Michael. Now, earlier in the morning on Fox & Friends, they talked about Michael in a really positive way, so I was excited. So I sat down with my coffee and started watching, then suddenly it just went south. I was devastated when I saw what they were saying. People who - they didn't even know his age, they didn't know who he was, but really taking out of context a really innocent, you know, interchange between the Vice President and my son.
TAPPER: And you have - you have other children, and your 15-year-old Will, this hit him pretty hard.
YEE: It did. I've tried to shield my children from this, as any, you know, parent would. I would not want them to be reading some of the comments that are out there about my son and my family and myself. And he, unfortunately, being a teenager, and (INAUDIBLE) he saw this. So, not understanding, he went online and answered some of the negativity trying to defend his brother but he was viciously attacked online and I came home to find him crying about this. So it's definitely affecting our family.
TAPPER: How can we fix this? What do you want? What do you want to be done for this wrong to be righted?
YEE: Right. Well, first I want, you know, people to be more aware of autism and how our kid interact in the world. And second, I would really just like Michael asked the Vice President so sweetly for an apology, I'd want to ask on his behalf, for Fox News to apologize for having used my son out of context and using those really, you know, horrible words to describe him and our family. That's really what I would want to come out of this is just more awareness. And please don't use kids, whether that, you know, they're typically developing kids, doesn't matter that he's autistic or a military kid. Forget all that, he's a kid. And you don't use children as examples on national television like that. I would hope that this is the very last time that this happens.
TAPPER: One would hope. Thank you so much for being here. We know it's not easy to do that, but you're standing up for your son, and I really appreciate it.
YEE: Thank you very much for having me.
TAPPER: Of course.
Turning to our "BURIED LEAD" now, that's we call stories that are not getting enough attention. Jarring and shocking images horrified many students at American University in Washington earlier this month. Bananas hanging by strings in the shapes of nooses with heinous messages targeting African-American students on campus. And now the FBI is helping the campus police to try to track down this suspect who is seen walking into the campus in the middle of the night. CNN's Sara Sidner has this report.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At 21 Taylor Dumpson is an American first. The first black woman to be elected student government president at the American University in Washington, D.C.
TAYLOR DUMPSON, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY STUDENT GOVERNMENT PRESIDENT: I fell to the floor and it was so emotional.
SIDNER: That euphoric feeling crushed just a day after she took office when these showed up on campus. Bananas hung with nooses crawled with the name of a gorilla and the letters of the historically black sorority Dumpson belongs to.
DUMPSON: First, as a student, I'm hurt. As member of the organization, I'm appalled. But as the target of a hate crime, I'm numb.
SIDNER: The threats only grew. Suddenly a known neo-Nazi group began targeting her online.
JONATHAN GREENBLATT, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE CEO: The guy behind it called for a choreographed campaign to intimidate and terrorize the head of the student body. We've seen white supremacists try to recruit on college campuses for years, but what's different today is there has been a velocity and a volume of these efforts that we've really never seen before.
[16:50:17] SIDNER: The ADL blames groups like American Vanguard, Identity Europa and American Renaissance for stirring racist sentiments on campus.
JARED TAYLOR, AMERICAN RENAISSANCE HEAD: First of all, I completely reject the term white supremacy. I simply want the opportunity for my people, people of European origin to be left alone so that we can pursue our own destiny.
SIDNER: We met up with Jared Taylor, the head of American Renaissance.
Do you think recruitment is going well when it comes to young people?
TAYLOR: Yes. I am constantly impressed by the number of young people who are completely wide awake on the subject of rage. Who are not bamboozled or intimidated by of all this nonsense of diversity being our strength? SIDNER: Taylor says he wants to live in an all-white world separate
from other racists.
Are you racist?
TAYLOR: I'm not racist. Whatever racist means, it is a pejorative term that means, whatever you think of somehow immoral or wrong, I reject that idea completely.
SIDNER: Well, I think it's wrong that you think that someone like me is less intelligent just by my very nature of being black or brown.
TAYLOR: Oh come on. You are an individual. You may be smarter than most white people on earth.
SIDNER: I know, but overall you're saying that my race is less intelligent than yours.
TAYLOR: And my race on average is less intelligent than Asians. Is the that a hateful thing to say? It's where the science leads me and I have to follow that (INAUDIBLE). I have no choice.
SIDNER: Junk science, just not believable.
What Taylor seems to fear the most, the day people of color outnumber whites in America.
TAYLOR: Whites did nothing, they will be reduced to a minority in which their culture is a sideshow and which they themselves will be considered a despised group who did everything bad that all other groups suffer from.
SIDNER: So you'll experience what I've experienced or what people of my race have experience.
TAYLOR: I doubt you personally have much experience with that.
SIDNER: You'd be surprised.
But he says no one including the American University student should be targeted with violence or harassment.
TAYLOR: I consider it very rude. I wouldn't condone that kind of activity but it's obviously not a crime.
SIDNER: As for Dumpson, now as president, she has a message to send. In her America, hate won't win.
DUMPSON: I think back to the Maya Angelou poem, you know, Still I Rise, you know, just like death, still I rise.
TAPPER: And now, thanks to Sara Sidner for that report. Now to our "MONEY LEAD" today and our conflict of interest watch. Chinese investors are fawning over a chance to put their money behind a development managed by the Kushner companies, as in one run by Jared Kushner's family, the husband of Ivanka Trump, son-in-law of President Donald Trump who's now the President's Senior Adviser. CNN's Cristina Alesci joins me now. Now, in a marketing pitch this weekend, Chinese developers were told investing with the Kushners is safer than other projects. Is the Kushner family profiting off the proximity of one from their family to the President?
CRISTINA ALESCI, CNNMONEY CORRESPONDENT: Seems like in this case they are. And whether - that's whether or not they intentionally do it. That's because Chinese investors tell us the connection to Trump is a big selling point for them. Here's the deal. Kushner's business partner in China held marketing event in upscale ballrooms this weekend in the hopes of attracting about 300 individual investors to fund a development in New Jersey called one journal square. This is through the EB-5 Visa program where those investors would get a pathway to residency. The Kushner name was splashed everywhere, but no one from the Kushner companies was there for this weekend's marketing event, and the presentation CNN saw didn't use the President's image.
Jake, that's a big difference from last weekend when Nicole Kushner Mayer, Jared's sister name-dropped her brother and one of the slides included a picture of Donald Trump. Nicole ended up after all apologizing from mentioning Jared at that event, but just to put this into context, Jake, and you know this, the Chinese culture prizes proximity to power. There's an understanding that people close to the ruling party get special treatment. And one of those people told us, he felt his money was safer because of the connection to Trump. Look, at the end of the day, the Kushners have an advantage over other real estate developers in China, and there's nothing legally preventing them from using that benefit. I spoke to Jared's attorney who said Jared sold his stake in this particular project and other projects that could be controversial.
TAPPER: And who decided what was controversial? Jared sold his share, his stake in this project, but who decided what's controversial and which ones he would keep and which ones he would sell?
ALESCI: That's a good question. And there's no criteria based on the people that I've spoken with about Jared's assets. There's no such criteria. All we have is list of companies that he owns and ones that he has divested from but there's no way to tell what assets are in those companies and there's no way to tell what the conflicts are with those assets. So the fact here is that a lack of transparency is causing all of these problems for Jared Kushner even though he is, by the way, abiding by - you know, all the laws that he needs to abide by.
[16:55:22] TAPPER: And explain this EB-5 Visa program.
ALESCI: It's controversial because essentially some lawmakers say it's selling citizenship or a pathway to citizenship. It's also - there have been reports of fraud with this program, and developers have essentially - you know, this program is supposed to attract investment into underdeveloped areas, and instead what developers do is they kind of gerrymander their locations in order to get the funding that they need.
TAPPER: All right. Cristina Alesci with conflict of interest watch, thanks so much. The deputy attorney General is set to give a classified briefing to the entire summit about the Comey firing. How will that impact Congress' Russia investigations? Senator Chris Coons of Delaware will weigh in next. Stay with us.