Return to Transcripts main page
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
States Fighting Back Against Trump Vote Commission; North Korea Missile Launch; Parents Fighting for Terminally Ill Baby. Aired 4:30- 5p ET
Aired July 4, 2017 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Many are citing privacy concerns and legal barriers, while others are openly questioning the administration's motives.
MAGGIE TOULOUSE OLIVER (D), NEW MEXICO SECRETARY OF STATE: It's not really clear what this data is going to be used for. It seems to maybe be a fishing expedition or a witch-hunt of some kind.
FOREMAN: The president has long argued with no proof that massive voter fraud occurred in last fall's election involving millions of ballots.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So many things are going on.
FOREMAN: But even some states willing to provide some information don't necessarily buy that.
WAYNE WILLIAMS (R), COLORADO SECRETARY OF STATE: I do not believe that vote fraud occurred on the scale that's been described. I do believe that vote fraud occurs, and it's important to take steps to prevent it.
FOREMAN: The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a privacy advocacy group here in D.C., has asked a federal court to temporarily block the White House effort. Meanwhile, the point man on the president's commission, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, is steadily defending the request for info.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's a lot of skepticism that it's essentially trying to validate what the president said and/or could lead to voter suppression.
KRIS KOBACH, KANSAS SECRETARY OF STATE: So, let me answer your questions. First of all, the commission's purpose is not to prove or disprove what the president speculated about back in January. The purpose of the commission is to find facts and put them on the table.
FOREMAN: But the facts are already being twisted, as many states have looked at the White House shopping list and noted their own laws forbid releasing some of that data, especially any portion of a voter's Social Security number. Kobach penned an op-ed on Breitbart, a far-right Web site, saying: "The commission didn't request that information."
Really? Look at his letter to the states. While Kobach noted some laws might prevent it, he did indeed ask for the last four digits of Social Security number if available.
FOREMAN: Now, this whole dispute could be moot if the court sides with that privacy group. A ruling could come this week.
But either way, it's hard to see how this effort will move forward effectively with so many states raising red flags about their willingness or legal ability to cooperate -- Jim.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Tom Foreman, thanks very much.
And lots to talk about today with my panel.
Jack Kingston, if I could start with you on the voter panel. Mississippi's secretary of state, one of several Republicans who pushed back in very strong terms against these requests, he said, sort of very quotably, "The election panel can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico." He said it violates privacy and states' rights to run their own elections.
Why is the president pushing for this information, when there is so much bipartisan pushback?
JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think what we have seen, for example, with the travel ban is this administration is going to look at things a certain way, and if they find there's obstacles, they will try it a different way.
SCIUTTO: Are you saying the president might back off this request?
KINGSTON: I think they might back off and take a different route.
But because there is so much bipartisan -- and I think there is a legitimate concern about privacy, but what we do know is that the Pew Trust has said 24 million people are inaccurately registered to vote, 1.8 million dead people and 2.8 million--
SCIUTTO: Let's be clear. There is no evidence that dead people voted. When studies have been done, it's found infinitesimal rates of fraud.
Even in Kris Kobach's state, there are almost two million voters there. They found eight cases in two years.
KINGSTON: There is no evidence that the Russians affected the outcome of the election, but we're going to spend a lot of time determining what their impact was.
I think one out of eight voters registered in America have inaccuracies on their registration. I think it's in everybody's bipartisan interest to say, can we do it better?
SCIUTTO: Chris, should American voters, Democratic or Republican, doubt -- do they have reasonable doubts about the motivations of this commission, based in part on one fact, that the birth of this came from the president's debunked claim that two to three million people voted illegally in the 2016 election?
CHRIS LU, CO-CHAIR, DNC TRANSITION ADVISORY COMMITTEE: Absolutely.
We're talking about this on Independence Day. And one of the most sacred principles in our country is the right to vote. And instead of legitimately looking at Russian interference with our election, we're trying to -- embarking on a wild goose chase to satisfy the president's interests.
You know, I found this very interesting. "The Washington Post" did an analysis that found in 2016 there were four instances of voter fraud. I suspect you could walk out on the Mall right now and find four people who were injured by fireworks harms today.
We're not doing an investigation into fireworks harm.
SCIUTTO: Karoun, Interesting to hear from Jack, Trump supporter, saying it's possible the president might make a course correction on this. Would you be surprised by that?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Not necessarily, given that it's been his wont before, but not a complete course turnaround.
I don't think he ever does 180s on this. He may try to find some other way of packaging this, other way of framing it. Maybe he will take away the request for the Social Security numbers because that seems to have caused the most backlash, but still maintain the core of it, which is trying to push forward on this sort of database and getting this information from the states.
The problem he will run into is if throwing out a carrot, like saying, OK, forget the Socials, doesn't actually bring some of those 44 states on board, he will have a real problem actually effecting this.
This one is not in his own hands as much as the Muslim ban was, for example. He actually has to defer a lot to the people that are in the states that don't want to do this in order to have any sort of success whatsoever.
SCIUTTO: Let's move on to Russia now.
You have the president, John Kirby, going to his second overseas trip, the G20. He will now have formal sit-down, formal bilat with President Putin. We've heard frustration from even inside Donald Trump's own White House that he has not been willing to confront Russia on meddling in the election. Of course, there is an opportunity here in this sit- down to do it.
But again it's our reporting. We're hearing from inside the administration he doesn't plan to do that. What's your reaction? Is that a missed opportunity?
JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: First, thanks for not asking me any questions about voter fraud.
SCIUTTO: I want to ask about your voter records.
KIRBY: Look, I'm heartened to hear that there is frustration in the White House about this. I think that's healthy.
And I do hope that he will change his mind and he will bring this up. Frankly, it's probably going to get brought up anyway, because Putin is going to complain about the fact that Obama kicked out his diplomats out and closed those compounds and that was because of the meddling.
They're going to back-door probably into this anyway, but I think this is a great opportunity for the president of the United States, and even if he doesn't want to talk about the past, because I know that's a problem with him, to talk about the future of election meddling and the fact that the Russians are not going to stop this cyber-activity.
I think it would be a wasted opportunity for him in his first meeting with Putin not to take full advantage of that and lay some markers going forward.
SCIUTTO: Jack, John Kirby raises an important point. I speak to folks -- and you have heard in some public comments from the DHS and elsewhere -- that Russia is continuing its attacks and they're targeting both parties and possibly laying the groundwork for another attack in 2018, 2020.
You said the president course corrects. He course corrected on the travel ban. He might course correct on this fraud commission.
Can you see a presidential course correction on how he handles Russian election meddlings?
KINGSTON: I think I can because getting back to John's point about the back-dooring, there is kind of two N's and two S's that are out there.
One of them is North Korea, the other one NATO, NATO's expansion that worries Putin. And then you have Syria and sanctions. You can't talk about sanctions without talking about election meddling.
And so the president actually goes in there with an advantage where he could actually say, gee, I'd like to work it out, but I got the U.S. Senate passing these sanctions, they're all over me, so we have to talk about this.
He has the excuse of kind of the board of directors, if you will, saying, damn it, this will be an issue and you will deal with it. And so I think whatever his personal view might be, he still has that great excuse to bring it up and drive the point.
SCIUTTO: Chris and Karoun, one of the obstacles so far -- we can't read the president's mind, but you hear from many who cover him very closely that it's difficult for the president to go there because he associates any discussion of election meddling with something somehow diminishing his election victory.
But Jack makes a very credible argument there as to how he could make that happen. Do you see--
DEMIRJIAN: I mean, he could.
It would be a dramatic turnaround, given that he has not done that course correction with the American public, to do that behind closed doors with the Russian president. Maybe he thinks it's a safer space. Who knows.
But the question also in my mind is who is going to control that conversation? Putin is a very, very experienced player on the world stage. He is very good at manipulating these sorts of situations to his advantage. Trump is not as experienced. He's used to dealing also on his foreign trips with people that are either dealing with him or are kind of flattering him when he goes overseas.
Putin probably might do not, might not do that. It depends on what Putin sees as his best play. And it's going to be very, very -- it's going to be a challenge for the president to try to control that environment given he doesn't have a track record on this issue of election meddling to back him up going into that room.
He could do it. It would essentially a very good thing if he does do it, but it's going to be actually much harder than in other things, I think, to make that switch.
SCIUTTO: All right, North Korea, a few have referenced it, that North Korea is very much at the front of the president's agenda.
We know that even -- that was a warning that Obama gave Trump coming in, and, lo and behold, this is where we are.
John Kirby, we discuss a lot, and I just had Gerry Connolly on, a congressman, Democratic congressman from Virginia. And I asked him this question.
I said, at the end of the day, is it a fact that the U.S. is going to kind of accept a nuclear North Korea, right? That's the direction. The military options aren't great. Is that the unexpressed reality of U.S.-North Korea policy now?
KIRBY: First, they already are nuclear-armed.
KIRBY: I think, but from a diplomatic perspective, that could be one outcome here.
I don't know where it's going to go. I don't know what options they're thinking about. But, clearly, this is not going to be a problem that is solved in the short-term and that we might have to find ourselves down the road dealing with a range of options that have to, at the beginning of them, accept that North Korea is a nuclear- armed state and can threaten its neighbors with those types of weapons.
SCIUTTO: It's a remarkable prospect, Chris Lu.
It's something successive administrations, Republican and Democratic, but Bush -- going back even before Bush and Obama, said, we will never let this happen. Lo and behold, this is where we are as a country.
I wonder, for Donald Trump, who is used to making things happen, right, is this something of a jarring lesson for him?
LU: It's a jarring lesson as well about the realities of his campaign rhetoric colliding with the realities of foreign policy.
When you look at what he said during the campaign about South Korea and Japan having to shoulder more of their defense obligations, what he said about China and now needing China's help in resolving this situation, this is very difficult.
And then you look at the incredible tweets he's had not only over the last 24 hours, but really over the last six months, where he's continued to ratchet up the rhetoric. Then all of a sudden, last night, he is sort of saying, hey, I don't have anything to do with this, hopefully China, South Korea and Japan can figure this out on their own.
SCIUTTO: That was a remarkable switch. I noticed that as well.
But, Jack Kingston, what is President Trump doing that his predecessors did not regarding North Korea to stop or slow its nuclear program?
KINGSTON: I think he has the advantage of history, and that they have been very disingenuous. They're not using their nuclear capabilities for electricity, as was the idea of the treaty which President Clinton signed almost 20 years ago.
SCIUTTO: That's going back..
SCIUTTO: I'm talking about today. KINGSTON: But I'm just saying that if you look at what they've been
doing, they're inching along every day. Not even inching.
I think getting six nations at the table is an imperative and to say, look, you have already got sanctions over the place with North Korea. They're not working because they can still buy from China and Russia. We need them to step forward.
SCIUTTO: Congressman Kingston, Chris, Karoun, John Kirby, thanks very much. Happy Fourth to all of you.
Pope Francis weighing in again on the fight over a British baby now on life support. Now the U.K. hospital is responding to an invitation directly from the Vatican.
[16:45:00] SCUITTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD and in our "WORLD LEAD," a Pediatric Hospital owned by the Vatican is now offering to take the terminally ill British baby, Charlie Gard into its care after Pope Francis and President Trump put an international spotlight on the story. Doctors in London want to take the 10-month-old off life support and against his parent's wishes. CNN's Diana Magnay joins me now from London. So Diana, the hospital where Charlie is now wouldn't release him to the parents somewhat amazingly, but will it release Charlie to the Pope's hospital or at least, the Vatican hospital?
DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the parents quite necessarily want to send him to the Vatican Hospital where he won't get the treatment that they want him to get in the states, anyway. The Vatican might just keep him on life support longer. Now, the parents have already said that they think his present quality of life is unsustainable. That's why they wanted this treatment in the United States, but the court all the way out in the U.K. and the European Court of Human Rights think that is not in Charlie's best interest, that it's in the best interest of the child for treatment to be withdrawn, for him be taken off life support. So this offer from the Vatican doesn't really bear much relevance for the case.
SCUITTO: You have other expressions of support. At one point 7 million U.S. dollars raised for Charlie now. Did Charlie's parents have any hope here in the U.S. in terms of providing care that they think the child needs? Or has the court order made it so that the parents can't take him out of the country?
MAGNAY: There is now no legal recourse anymore. The court order means they can't take him out. And the decision was made that this therapy won't necessarily be able or won't definitely be able to reverse his brain damage. That's why the doctors and the judges decided that it would be futile. You know, the doctors at his hospital in Great Ormond Street had considered using the same therapy until they saw that his condition has deteriorated so much since January, they thought it would be pointless. Now, the parents just wanted to give it one last ditch effort. They had the money, they just wanted to give it a go. But here in the U.K., they try and put the child's interests first and the judges felt this might benefit medical science but it won't benefit Charlie.
SCUITTO: Well, goodness. Heartbreaking for the parents to an amazing (INAUDIBLE), Diana Magnay thanks very much.
Turning to our "BURIED LEAD," that's what we call stories that are not getting enough attention. A looming humanitarian catastrophe is still missing somehow from the headlines. 20 million across four countries is in desperate need of food today, the year 2017. United Nation says that famine in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen is rapidly getting worse due to both drought and regional conflicts there. Conditions so horrific, U.N. warns it could be the greatest humanitarian crisis since the organization was founded in 1945. We have to warn you that some of the images you're about to see, they could be graphic, they could be moving. CNN's Farai Sevenzo takes a closer look into this potential mass starvation.
FARAI SEVENZO, CNNI CORRESPONDENT: As animal carcasses lie scattered in the dust, it's a race against time to save human lives. Food parcels fall from the sky over South Sudan, a desperate lifeline for those going hungry. (INAUDIBLE) country is one of four nations along with Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen facing critical food shortages. Low harbors caused by droughts don't help but armed conflict is mostly to blame. All four of these countries are in prolonged wars. South Sudan recently had its famine declaration downgraded by the U.N. but the crisis is far from over. The country still faces emergency levels of hunger. In Somalia, a mother watches over her emaciated daughter. She's one of 275,00 children UNICEF say who suffer from severe malnutrition as drought and nearly three decades of internal conflict. Most recently, the government's war on al-Shabaab militant persist. 32-year-old Nema and her children are amongst the desperate and displaced in Somali land.
[16:50:05] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I came here with 250 goats, all of them are dead except for two. I have seven children who I'm struggling to feed and I'm forced to give them this black tea without milk as all the animals I used to milk are dead.
SEVENZO: In Nigeria's northeast, an on-going war between the government and terror group Boko Haram and devastated food supplies and access to humanitarian aid forcing many to flee just to find food and safety.
BUKAR ABDULKADIR, DISPLACED NIGERIAN RESIDENT (through translator): I spent three years in Cameroon from 2014 to 2017, then we decided to come with all my family. What we want from the government is to help us. We don't have wood to cook, we don't have anything in our hands, even soap to wash.
SEVENZO: Beyond the home Africa and across the red sea, images from inside Yemen show just how desperate food shortages are there as a Saudi-led coalition bombards Houthi rebels in the country. Nearly half a million children in Yemen are suffering from severe malnutrition as the country battles a cholera epidemic with over 200,000 people infected, according to the U.N. The food crisis affecting these four countries and how to get the funding to provide relief is of the top of the agenda for humanitarian organizations.
JAMES ELDER, UNICEF COMMUNICATIONS CHIEF: The money is there. We know that -- we know there's money available. If the money doesn't come, then we hit a crisis point of mass death. We know that it's much more expensive than to reach that famine. That F word really stands for failure.
SEVENZO: And with no clear sign of relief any time soon, it's a failure to provide for the millions who today go to bed hungry. Farai Sevenzo, CNN, Nairobi.
SCUITTO: Just a stunning, stunning and a heartbreaking report there. Please listen, if you'd like to help famine victims, please head over to cnn.com/impact. There are a lot of ways there that you can try to make a difference in this horrible crisis.
And coming up, could North Korea's missile test lead to an armed conflict? A member of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committee weighs in. Stick around.
[16:55:00] SCUITTO: Welcome back, our "POP CULTURE LEAD" now. Whether you're looking for sad and funny, or sad yet funny, or looking for some raunchy dumpster diving. Our next segment has a beach book for you. Jake Tapper spoke to the author Matthew Klum who gave us his summer reads.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Matt, thank you for joining us. Appreciate it.
MATTHEW KLAM, WHO IS RICH AUTHOR: Thanks for having me, Jake.
TAPPER: So, first book recommendation?
KLAM: It's called Made for Love.
TAPPER: Made for Love by --
KLAM: It's a very funny book, sometimes raunchy. The author is a little nutty which makes sense because her name is Alissa Nutting. It's the story of Hazel who as a young, broke college student is thinking one morning about dumpster diving and later that day, she meets Byron who's the head of a giant tech company. Pretty soon she is billionaire tech weenie arm candy. They hit it off, they stay together. Byron is cold, stiff and manipulative and eventually succeeds in sedating hazel and inserting a chip into her brain.
TAPPER: A chip into her brain. Is it sci-fi? KLAM: And she -- it has elements of that -- and she runs away and that's the novel, her trying to get away from Byron.
TAPPER: And what's the second book you got here?
KLAM: The second book is called New People. It's by Danzy Senna And a young couple, Maria, and Khalil are in love in Brooklyn. Khalil says we're like a Woody but with more melanin. They're both biracial, both could pass for white or Hispanic. Maria expresses the certain kind of angst because she says the race doesn't match the face. Flashback to when they were both undergrads at Stanford and Khalil is the one cool black guy in the all-white fraternity. He is as the author says, the hoodie in the blowfish. Maria sees this and thinks he really needs to engage with his identity more, takes him to his first step show, teaches him when to chant the roof, the roof, the roof is on fire. The question sort of underlying this really interesting biracial story is, what if the person who's perfect for you on paper leaves you cold, doesn't make you happy?
TAPPER: Very interesting. And let's talk about my recommendation for a beach read. It's a book by you.
KLAM: Oh, wonderful.
TAPPER: It's called Who is Rich?, a novel by Matthew Klam, many, many years in the writing. We should note, in addition to you and I being friends, before we were friends, I was a fan of your writing in your first book of short stories. And it's a wonderful book about adulthood and angst and the difficulties for this main character in being faithful to his wife. I understand you're going to read us a little excerpt.
KLAM: I'm going to read a tiny bit here. We bumped into each other in the laundry room and went for a walk on the jetty at sunset and talked about marriage and stayed out late and spilled our guts. Wasn't that the whole point of this place? To take a break and clear your head? And who really gave a (BLEEP) what two people did at an arts conference in some swinging summer paradise? Real life was so lonely anyway, and I figured I'd never see her again. So in the last night, we went back to her dorm room and goofed around. When the conference ended, we started zipping notes back and forth, just a few, then more and more. For a while, I thought she'd leave him, and if she left him, maybe I'd leave Robin. But then she didn't, and I didn't, either
TAPPER: It's a wonderful book. And one of the things that so interesting about it beyond human drama and the -- and the human comedy of it because it's both sad and hilarious is the main character Rich is cartoonist. And you explore the idea of Rich mining his own life for a graphic novel, for a comic book. And this is something that all fiction writers deal with. How much of their own lives to put into their books and how much not to, and when does it become too exploitative of the people you love.
KLAM: Sure. You know, when he's stuck at a crossroads, he's trying to figure out who he is. This is you know, these other two books I was talking about, have issues of identity. This book also has, you know, an issue of identity, which is, if you call yourself an artist and you're not producing art, what are you? And so he's going a little crazy. He meets this woman who is the wife of a wall street --
KLAM: -- Amy, Wall Street big shot.
TAPPER: Yes, I don't -- I don't like Amy.
KLAM: And she is at the conference too in order to explore her-he's there as an instructor and she's there to study painting. There -- it's a -- it's a conference that takes place every year on the shore for like five days, and the people who participate treat it as a kind of summer camp for grown-ups.
TAPPER: Great book Who is Rich?, a novel by Matthew Klam. Thanks for that -- writing and also for the recommendations for the other two books. Can't wait to read them all.
KLAM: Thank you.
SCUITTO: That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jim Scuitto. You have a very happy Fourth of July. I turn you over now to Brianna Keilar, she's in "THE SITUATION ROOM"