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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey; Terror in Afghanistan; James Comey Set to Testify; Will Trump Blow Up Climate Change Agreement?. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired May 31, 2017 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:05]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: On climate change, is President Trump about to give the world the cold shoulder?

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Trump expected to pull out of an international pact that nearly every country on Earth has signed on to, the Paris climate agreement. How is this possible snub being seen around the world, and what will this mean?

Breaking news. He is going to talk. James Comey, the man President Trump fired as FBI director and the man who apparently took notes on their personal conversations, now says he will testify before Congress and before us all.

Plus, carnage in America's longest war, a truck bomb in Afghanistan killing at least 90 people and wounding hundreds of others, as the Trump administration considers what to do next in that country.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We are going to will today begin with the politics lead. He's the president who once called climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, which, of course, it is not. But today we are awaiting a major decision by the White House. Two senior U.S. officials telling us that President Trump is expected to announce that the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

It is a major campaign promise and a major power-washing of the Obama legacy, something Trump loyalists and many of his supporters will loudly cheer, but something that the national security experts and the U.S.' most trusted allies around the world will inevitably see as a monumental mistake.

CNN's Jim Acosta is live for us at the White House.

And, Jim, where is President Trump right now on this decision?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, the president just told reporters he will make a decision on the Paris deal -- quote -- "very soon." It appears there was something of a tug-of-war over this climate agreement. A top adviser and daughter Ivanka Trump was making moves inside the White House, in fact, to make sure the president was hearing from all sides of the issue, but, in the end, administration officials tell CNN the president is poised to pull the U.S. out of the historic climate accord.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUESTION: Secretary Tillerson, are you guys going to pull out of the Paris agreement?

ACOSTA (voice-over): Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wouldn't answer the question.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Very soon.

ACOSTA: And the president tweeted he will be making his decision on the Paris climate agreement over the next few days, but administration officials say the president is expected to end U.S. participation, a decision that flies in the face of last-minute appeals from U.S. allies and scientists from around the world.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the president's comments on this that he will be making a decision in the next few days stand.

ACOSTA: The president's move to pull out of the climate deal would fulfill a campaign promise.

TRUMP: We will cancel this deal, so that our companies can compete.

ACOSTA: But the decision also runs counter to advice coming from his own daughter Ivanka, who supported staying in the agreement. An administration official said Ivanka created a process to ensure the president heard from people on all sides of the issue, both inside and outside government.

Yet White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer could not say whether the president believed human activity contributed to climate change. The president has repeatedly called climate change a hoax.

QUESTION: Can you say whether or not the president believes that human activity is contributing to the warming of the climate?

SPICER: Honestly, I haven't asked him.

ACOSTA: Canceling the Paris agreement is sure to excite conservatives, dealing a blow to the legacy of Barack Obama.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today's a historic day in the fight to protect our planet for future generations.

ACOSTA: Democrats are furious. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement: "In walking away in from this agreement, the president is denying scientific truths."

Even some Republicans have their doubts.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If he does withdraw, that would be a definitive statement by the president that he believes climate change is a hoax. Stay in the deal, make it a better deal would be my advice.

ACOSTA: Still, the president was signaling for some time he was pulling out of the Paris deal, telling French President Emmanuel Macron over the weekend, "A lot of people in my country are against this agreement."

TRUMP: Chancellor Merkel, thank you very much.

ACOSTA: The move to scrap the Paris agreement will further isolate the president from some of the same allies that he irritated at times during his foreign trip. Even as the president is said to be feeling increasingly withdrawn at home, he's been seeking closer ties to other foreign leaders, asking Macron of France to exchange phone numbers.

"You want my cell phone so we can speak directly to each other?" -- an offered to swap digits that is once again raising questions about the security of the president's phone habits.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: Now, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer didn't try to explain what the president met when he posted that bizarre tweet overnight that said: "The negative press covfefe."

Spicer said the president and a small group of people know what he meant.

As for the pulling out of the climate deal, Jake, we should point out a source close to the White House tells me it gives the president an opportunity to insist he's keeping his promises. That is something, of course, he's not been able to say on everything, whether it's on China, on trade, and his decision to hold off for now moving the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem -- in Israel to Jerusalem, which is something he's vowed to do -- Jake.

[16:05:01]

TAPPER: All right, Jim Acosta at the White House for us, thank you so much.

Let's turn now to the ever-expanding Russia probe. Sources telling CNN that fired FBI Director James Comey will testify publicly about his allegation that President Trump suggested that Comey end his investigation into alleged ties between Russian government officials and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

CNN's Jessica Schneider joins me now.

And, Jessica, how soon could we see Comey testify? JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the highly anticipated testimony, it could come as soon as next week, according to sources.

The details, though, are still being determined, but sources do say fired FBI Director James Comey will once again sit in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee and publicly recount his run-ins with the president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): James Comey is expected to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee about any possible pressure he felt from President Trump to drop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Flynn's ties to Russia.

Sources tell CNN Comey documented his February 14 meeting with President Trump, detailing the president's plea this way: "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope can you let this go."

The president was on the attack Wednesday morning, referring to the false or misleading testimony by James Comey, John Brennan a witch- hunt. Comey has spoken with special counsel Robert Mueller to work out the parameters of his testimony, and Comey will likely sit down with Mueller afterwards.

This all comes as congressional investigators are widening the scope of people they have reached out to, at least nine Trump associates so far. President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, after resisting requests from House and Senate Intelligence, says he will cooperate if Congress issues him a subpoena, saying he has nothing to hide.

The House Intelligence Committee has asked for documents from former White House communications official Boris Epshteyn, who is working with his attorney to cooperate. And a source says Michael Flynn will hand over documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee, with the first batch of business and personal records expected by June 6.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His testimony postponed indefinitely at the request of Democrats.

SCHNEIDER: And this snippet on FOX News about former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page seemingly grabbed the president's attention. He tweeted 30 minutes after it aired: "So now it is reported that the Democrats, who have excoriated Carter Page about Russia, don't want him to testify."

Carter Page tells CNN his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee was tentatively scheduled for next week, but has been pushed back a week.

QUESTION: A quick question: What do you really speak to Jared Kushner about in New York when you met him in December?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No comment.

SCHNEIDER: And the Russian bank chairman with close ties to President Vladimir Putin not answering questions about his December meeting with Jared Kushner. Kushner's push to create secret communication with Russia also drawing scrutiny from investigators.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: We're trying to figure out exactly why for him in particular was the reason to have back channels. One thing to have national security back channels, another thing for other individuals in the White House. So, that's a very reasonable question, and we are going to look to try to get clear answers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: And the White House is now refusing to answer any questions about the White House probe. Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced today that all future questions need to be referred directly to recently retained outside counsel Marc Kasowitz -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.

And we're going to have much more on that Russian banker ahead in the program.

But coming up next, if the president does withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, the United States would be one of only three countries, including Syria, not included in that pact. What the would that mean for America's standing around the world, if anything? We will talk to a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:12:48]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Our world lead now. U.S. allies are reacting to what we're told is President Trump's pending decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord. The United Nations tweeted a quote from its secretary-general -- quote -- "Climate change is undeniable. Climate change is unstoppable. Climate solutions provide opportunities that are unmatchable" -- unquote.

The White House has not officially announced anything, and this afternoon the president said he will make his decision very soon.

For more, let's talk with Senator Ed Markey. He's Democrat of Massachusetts.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

The president tweeted he has not made his final decision. What would you tell him if he consulted you and asked you, why should we stay in this accord? SEN. EDWARD MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, Mr. President, I would

say to him, if you pull out, it will be an economic, an environmental, a national security and a moral disaster for the United States.

You have a chance by staying in this agreement to back out imported oil from the Middle East. We right now send young men and women over to the Middle East to protect the oil which comes in from Saudi Arabia.

If we increase our efficiency, our renewables, our all-electric vehicles, we back that oil out. It's a national security imperative. The pope told you, Mr. President, that it's a moral imperative.

But the pope was also a high school chemistry teacher, and he said the science is clear that the planet is warming. The science is clear that human beings are the principal cause, and that there is a moral responsibility for the principal polluter over the last 150 years to be the laggard -- to be the leader, and not the laggard.

So, Mr. President, please, listen to the pope. Listen to the scientists. Listen to your national security adviser. Please stay in the agreement.

TAPPER: Let me have you address some of the criticisms that your Republican colleagues who are opponents of the climate accord argue. Some say that staying in the pact will make it easier for environmental groups to sue U.S. energy companies. That will hurt American companies and hurt jobs right here in the U.S.

[16:15:00] How would you respond to that?

MARKEY: Well, I would say that right now there are 70,000 coal miners left in the United States of America. In Massachusetts, we now have 100,000 people working in the clean energy sector. We're 2 percent of America's population. Massachusetts has 100,000 clean energy workers. There are only 70,000 coal miners left.

The president made a pledge that he cannot keep to coal miners. The consequence could be that he pulls us out of an international agreement that would ruin the credibility of our country while handcuffing us, not just in Massachusetts, but across the whole country in creating hundreds of thousands, millions of new jobs in an economic sector that otherwise we would be ceding to the Chinese, to the Germans, to the Indians and others.

The threat to our country are the windmills pointed at us, coming from China. Like the missiles, like the missiles in Cuba in 1962, the threat to us today are that these -- that these renewable energy technologies are pointed at our economy and will be importing rather than exporting these technologies for a generation if he pulls out of this accord.

TAPPER: Let me just quickly ask you about China. Another argument is that the agreement set tough standards for the U.S., but China gets off easy. MARKEY: Well, China has already said that their goal is going to be

produce as much renewable electricity in 2030 as all electricity which is generated in the United States today. That's a big change which is taking place. They are doing it not only for their own economic benefit, but they are doing it because they have to respond to the pollution in their cities.

There's no question that China would love it if we pulled out so that they could capture the electric vehicle market. They could capture the wind and solar market. They could capture all of these new technologies and wind up with made in China on all of this equipment that we sold around the world for the entirety of the 21st century.

TAPPER: Senator Markey, stay right there. We have lots more to talk about, including a question that seemed to stump a U.S. State Department official.

Stick around. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:21:30] TAPPER: We're back. Sticking with our world lead.

A U.S. State Department spokesman was asked about Saudi Arabia's commitment to democracy this week, and his answer, well, he had to think about it. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Well, you were over there. The secretary criticized the conduct of the Iranian elections and Iran's record on democracy and did so standing next to Saudi officials. How do you characterize Saudi's commitment to democracy, and does the administration believe that democracy is a buffer or a barrier against extremism?

STUART JONES, ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Um -- I think what we would say is that at this meeting, we were able to make significant progress with Saudi and GCC partners in both making a strong statement against extremism and also -- and also putting -- putting in place certain measures through this GCC mechanism where we can combat extremism. Clearly, one source of extremism, one terrorism threat is coming from Iran, and that's coming from a part of the Iranian apparatus that is not at all responsive to its electorate. OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Wow, that was painful.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Stuart Jones trying to explain the decades-long hypocrisy that the United States government has when it comes to Saudi Arabia.

Senator Ed Markey, you're still with me. Senator, what do you think was going on during that pause? And why

don't you give us your take about Saudi Arabia's commitment to democracy?

MARKEY: Well, the Trump administration has clearly doubled down on the Sunni Arabs, and that's what that first part of his trip was all about, but friends tell friends the truth. So, when he was in Saudi Arabia, he should have talked about the need to advance democratic principles inside of Saudi Arabia. He should have talked to them about advancing human rights principles inside of Saudi Arabia. But instead, he just took it as an opportunity to attack the Shia Iranian government rather than using it as an opportunity to talk to that entire region about the need to embrace democratic values, human rights values.

So, this administration is tongue-tied when it comes to human rights. When the president talks about President Duterte in the Philippines who is engaging in extrajudicial killings, he's saying to Duterte, you're doing a great job there. You know, when he's talking about Putin, when he's talking about Saudi Arabia, whenever it comes to his ability just to lecture them about the principles that past presidents have done so, he never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity to ensure that our values are heard by the principals when the president is meeting with them in person.

[16:25:02] TAPPER: All right. Senator Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts -- thanks so much for your time, sir. We appreciate it.

A massive bomb blast in Afghanistan has killed at least 90 people and injured hundreds more, including some Americans. We'll go live to Kabul where the rush hour attack is raising new questions about U.S. troop levels and what Trump should do next in that country.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back.

In our national lead today, a man police say had two guns and 80 round of ammunition was arrested today at the Trump international hotel in Washington. He also reportedly made threats against President Trump. Police say they knew the suspect was coming because of a tip.

CNN's Laura Jarrett is outside the Trump Hotel.

Laura, tell us who this man is and how think discovered his weapons.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Jake, the man at the center of this bizarre ordeal today is Bryan Moles, who came from Pennsylvania to D.C., to the nation's capital, and authorities found out about it because Moles allegedly told somebody about his plans to travel here with weapons, and that person tipped off the Pennsylvania state police who subsequently told Secret Service and the D.C. police.