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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

U.S. Navy Expected to Order One-Day Operational Pause Following Recent Crash; Aired 4-5p ET

Aired August 21, 2017 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Walk us through what the Navy would do during this rare procedure, this operational pause.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: So what they'll do, Jake, over the next two weeks, fleet commanders will be given discretion and give their unit commander's discretion to pick a day, and it could be more than a day, depends on the unit commander, to basically stop normal operations and review everything from safety procedures and watch standing to material readiness. The sensors up, their radar, the engines.

Everything is in good working order. And they will also give a chance -- it's a little bit of a listening opportunity, Jake. It's a chance to talk to sailors about their working conditions and about their watch standing conditions, and about the things that they're seeing on a day-to-day basis.

You can get amazing insight from young sailors just by listening to how they're manning the ship every day and what they think maybe can be done better. You never know where a great safety tip or a new procedure is going to come from. And that's what this operational pause is designed to do. To give the Navy a chance not only to take a knee and take a breath and try to review what happened and we can prevent it but also to work on lessons learned.

TAPPER: General Hayden, this is the fourth naval accident this year alone. How troubling is it given that this is happening in some of the world's busiest waters?

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Jake, of course it's troubling because you've got young men and women out there who are suffering, who have died or been hurt because of these incidents.

Let me agree with Admiral Kirby here. U.S. Armed Forces are really uncompromising when it comes to introspection after an event like this. And so we're going to try to figure out whether this was bad luck, bad performance or something more systemic and it could very well be a combination of all three. And if you're asking me as the non-sailor at the table here what could be the systemic issue, it could be the byproduct of 16 years of unrelenting apps tempo for all the American Armed Forces. So John's comment about take a knee here, let's figure out what's happening is the wisest course of action.

TAPPER: Admiral Kirby, now the Navy has ordered this, quote, "broader inquiry," but to be frank, do you think this should have been done after the USS Fitzgerald collision just last month? Preliminary findings blamed the Navy for that June incident which claimed the lives of seven sailors.

KIRBY: Well, actually in a way, you know, Admiral Richardson did do something like that, a little bit short of what he did today but in the wake of the Fitzgerald incident he did order an Asia Pacific wide review of procedures watch standing and training standards as well. Now he's elevated that in the wake of what happened to McCain to the entire fleet, which I think is wise. And if you listen to him, he also didn't just apply this to the surface Navy, to destroyers and cruisers, but to aviation squadrons and submarine squadrons as well, so the entire Navy now is going to be taking a wider look at how they conduct safe navigation on a daily basis.

I think he's doing it the right way. I think he's been very transparent. And I do think that in the wake of the Fitzgerald, he did take that seriously and broaden the scope out some.

TAPPER: And General Hayden, the USS McCain, in addition to tragic loss of life, it's equipped with the Aegis missile defense system which obviously could potentially counter any North Korean missile launch. The U.S. Navy has 84 vessels equipped with that same missile defense system. That's going to be an added concern.

HAYDEN: Oh, of course it is, Jake. It is about to ops tempo. These types of ships have been used to (INAUDIBLE) Syria, to patrol the Sea of Japan, to make sure the North Koreans know we're serious, to spar with the Republican Guard Navy in the Straits of Hormuz back to the ops tempo question. We're putting a lot of demands on these systems and on these young sailors.

TAPPER: Admiral, speaking of North Korea, the 10-day war games between the U.S. and South Korea have begun. North Korea obviously not happy. They're warning the drills could lead to, quote, "uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war." A type of rhetoric from North Korea. Not new. But should the U.S. take this more seriously given the recent escalation of tensions?

KIRBY: I think they are taking it very seriously. You saw General Dunford in the region just last week before the exercises begun and he actually, you know, publicly talked about the exercise, why they were moving forward. He rephrased the context behind the exercise. That they are purely defensive in nature and that they're required to keep up readiness inside the alliance.

Plus, Jake, this was a very important message to the Korean people, the South Korean people, the people that depending on us to try to help defend them and to meet our security requirements. So I think they have taken it very seriously. They have -- it was the right thing to do, to move forward with the exercise, and I think it was really the right thing to do to put context around why that was happening.

TAPPER: Admiral Kirby, General Hayden, thanks so much. Appreciate it. KIRBY: Thank you.

TAPPER: Out of money. The stunning new report about the U.S. Secret Service and how all of the president's visits to Trump properties are costing the agency, depleting their funds. Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:39:34] TAPPER: We're back in Racine, Wisconsin, where we're going to be talking to House Speaker Paul Ryan in the town hall later this evening after President Trump gives his address to the nation about the way forward in Afghanistan.

Let's talk about our "National Lead" right now, though. As the president returns from his two-week working vacation, the U.S. Secret Service told "USA Today" that they are lacking the funds to pay for the hundreds of agents they need to protect the president and his family.

Travel spending under President Trump just this year is on pace to surpass eight years of spending under President Obama, which brings us to another edition of "Is There a Tweet for That?"

[16:40:10] Is there a tweet in the archives of then citizen Donald Trump criticizing someone for the exact same offense he is now committing? And the answer is yes, there is a tweet for it.

Here is then-businessman Donald Trump in 2011. "Why did Barack Obama and his family travel separately to Martha's Vineyard? They love to extravagantly spend on the taxpayers' dime."

CNN White House reporter Kaitlan Collins joins me now.

Kaitlan, why are expenses so high?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Jake, it could be attributed to a number of things. First off, the Secret Service director Randolph Alles said today that they are dealing with an unprecedented number of protectees right now. There are 42 people in the Trump administration who receive Secret Service protection, and 18 of those people are his family members. So it's not just the president, the first lady and Barron Trump being covered, it's also his adult children.

Now compare that with the only 31 people who are covered in the Obama administration. Now this could also be attributed to all the trips that the president has taken. He's largely traveled most weekends that he's been in office since January, spending the first half of his presidency in Mar-a-Lago and West -- and Palm Beach and then lately he's been in Bedminster at his golf course there. He just spent 17 days there for a working vacation.

So it can be contributed to a number of things there, Jake. But also Secret Service Director Alles said that this isn't an unprecedented thing that is not -- it's something that's been plaguing the Secret Service for years. It's not just a Trump administration thing. He actually released this statement today saying, "This issue is not

one that can be attributed to the current administration's protection requirements but rather has been an ongoing issue for nearly a decade due to an overall increase in operational tempo -- Jake.

TAPPER: That's right. The issue has been going on for a long time but it's much, much worse under this president with his extensive travel and his extensive adult family. What is the White House saying about this -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes, so we reached out to the White House today to ask them for a response to this loaded story about the Secret Service not being able to be paid, and they said that the president is committed to ensuring that Secret Service and all of those protecting our country have all the resources they need. We are going to continue to work with Congress on this important issue which requires their actions.

And of course, Jake, every president deserves a vacation, but the reason this is being highlighted is because, like you said earlier, as a citizen, the president regularly criticized Obama for every time he took a vacation or a trip that was funded by taxpayers.

TAPPER: There's a tweet for it.

Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Our "Politics Lead" now, let's bring in the political panel to discuss the day's news.

Scott Jennings, let me start with you. Travel spending under President Trump, higher than President Obama. He's traveling more. Is this fair game for people to bring up after President Trump criticized Obama for every vacation he took?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, sure, it's fair game to bring up, but I don't think it's going to have much political impact on the president. As the secret service director says, this has been going on for a number of years. I think American citizens want their president and his family protected. So much like presidential travel in general, I think people understand that the president has to be protected and that extends to a huge number of people so I don't expect this to have any long-term impact on the president's standing.

TAPPER: Susan Page?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: I don't think it's something with a lot of political -- I think Americans do expect the president to be protected. Now it is possible that some of these trips that Tiffany, for instance, took to Hungary or the big price tags that some of the Secret Service agents have had to pay at Trump- owned hotels, maybe that's something that the Trump family or the Trump Organization could have kind of a break on.

But there are so many things to be concerned about in our country at this point that I think this is one of those things that can get a lot of attention for a day but doesn't have some longstanding political consequences.

TAPPER: Let's talk about a story of immense political consequence and an international consequence, Afghanistan.

Abby Phillip, the president is going to speak to Americans this evening about his vision for the way forward in Afghanistan. He might be finding, as President Obama did before him, that you can talk about drawing down easily when you're a candidate, but it can be a different and difficult scenario when you're commander-in-chief and generals are pleading with you otherwise. What do you think?

ABBY PHILLIP, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, and in so many ways this has been really the story of the Trump administration where the campaign rhetoric and the reality of being president are not the same thing. They have not aligned very easily for him.

One of the reasons this decision has taken so long to come to is because the president really wants to find a way to win. And the reality is that Afghanistan has been a place that not just the United States but countries before it have gone there and struggled and found themselves in essentially a quagmire of a political conflict.

I think this moment today, Trump is going to be really laying out I think a very important principle for his administration, how he's going to go forward, how he's going to frame what the United States wants to do in that region. And how he's going to recalibrate the campaign rhetoric that was frankly not very well aligned with the reality of conflict in the Middle East. I think it will be an important moment for him to frame that for the American people, and it's one that he's been very reluctant to get to at this point. It doesn't seem very much like we're in -- we're poised to really pull everything out like he said he wants to do and reinvest at home.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Scott, Steve Bannon who has been ousted was a very strong voice against U.S. interventionism, I suppose, is what he would call it. I don't know that there is another voice as strong representing that point of view within the circle of the President's top advisers. If President Trump ultimately does order more troops to be sent to Afghanistan, do you think that that could hurt him with the base?

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: No, I don't, because I think what the base wants to see is that a process was followed here to get to a good decision, and that's exactly what it looks like has happened. Secretary Mattis, H.R. McMaster, General Kelly led a process to get the President to the best possible decision. I've heard a lot of people say recently, Jake, is this a stable Presidency? Are we shooting from the hip when it comes to policy? In this case, absolutely not. A good process was run. I hope the President does not turn Afghanistan over to the terrorist. It doesn't sound like he's going to. I think that's a decision Republicans will support not just because it's the right thing to do but because they followed a very solid Presidential policy process to get there. TAPPER: And Susan, ultimately no matter what people thought about Steve Bannon, I think it has to be said, he represented a unique point of view when it comes to a traditional Republican White House in the sense that he was arguing for U.S. withdrawal. You usually don't hear that among Senior Advisers in a Republican White House.

SUSAN PAGE, WAHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: Well, that's right. Of course, you heard that from President Trump as a Candidate on Twitter, at campaign rallies. He ridiculed President Obama when President Obama announced his path forward three or four years ago on Afghanistan. And so this is a big turn for him tonight. And he's going to -- you know, it's his first nationally televised primetime speech on a single topic. And for that to be on a topic where he is switching position from what he said during the campaign, I think does raise some current -- some concerns among the people who voted for him, who voted for him not because he wanted to continue the -- and expand the war in Afghanistan, but because they wanted him to deliver on jobs, deliver on health care, deliver on tax cuts. Some of the issues he's having a lot trouble delivering on here in Washington.

TAPPER: Abby, it's interesting David Fahrenthold has been writing about the fact in your paper at the Washington post that at least ten organizations have canceled their events at President Trump's Mar-a- Lago Resort, ranging from the Red Cross to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, to the Palm Beach Zoo, might President Trump view this kind of activism against him differently than he does some other criticism because it's hitting him on the wallet?

PHILIP: Well, I think this president is not really a huge fan of criticism in general but certainly when it has to do with his money, he's particularly sensitive to it. And I think he's extremely proud of this business specially Mar-a-Lago. And the idea that companies could be making statement against him by pulling out of events at his -- at his resort is certainly going to needle him in the side. It remains to be seen.

So far, we haven't seen him talk about it yet, but it's possible that he might because you know, this is a President who, when he goes home to these resorts, to Bedminster, to Mar-a-Lago, he's touting them. He wants people to know that he is there, that he's part of what it means to be a member at these clubs. People are paying $200,000 to be a member at Mar-a-Lago, so it's extremely important to him that he maintains the sort of -- the aura of the kind of Presidential abode while he's in office and I think it will clearly upset him that the companies are making political statements about him through his companies.

TAPPER: Susan Page, Paul Ryan, the House Speaker with whom I'm going to have a Town Hall here in Racine later tonight, he put up a Facebook post in which he talked about the need to have moral clarity, that there's no moral equivalence when you're talking about neo-Nazis, basically saying the kind of statement that a lot of wish President Trump had said Saturday and Tuesday, although he came close to saying it or maybe he did say it on Monday. Do you think that this is a break, that these Republican Leaders who are saying these things are breaking from President Trump, or is something else going on? [16:50:06] PAGE: You know, clearly there's some concern in the

Republican Party, and particularly the Republican Party of a (INAUDIBLE) member. He's an acolyte of Jack Kemp who really stood up on racial issues in the Republican Party. And so, I think there is some expectation that Paul Ryan would already have done more and would do more now because while he spoken out against neo-Nazis and white supremacist, believe me, politically that's not such a tough thing to do. He hasn't really talked about the President directly, and I'm wondering if that's one of the things that he might be forced to address, like it or not at your Town Hall tonight.

TAPPER: We'll have to wait and see Susan. Thanks so much for joining us, Abby, Scott, thanks so much. The EPA during its own scientist report to ban a pesticide while the Head of the Agency was, "resetting the relationship with industry insiders." Stick around for that report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: Welcome back. I'm in Racine, Wisconsin. We're going to be holding a Town Hall meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan later tonight. But let's turn to our "WORLD LEAD" now. Spanish authorities say police have shot and killed the terrorist suspected of driving a van into a crowd of people last week in Barcelona. Younes Abouyaaqoub, a 22-year-old Moroccan national is alleged to be the sole driver of the van that killed 13 people and injured more than 100 others. Police say a woman alerted authorities after recognizing him from photos they had put out. He was found with different knives and police believe he was on the run by himself. Investigators say he fled the scene of Thursday's attack on foot before hijacking a car to escape. Abouyaaqoub was one of the 12 terrorist suspects linked to the attack. Authorities have said none had previously known links to terrorist activities.

Let's turn now to our latest installment on our "EARTH MATTERS" series. Internal documents from the Environmental Protection Agency show EPA Chief Scott Pruitt promising, "a new future" for agriculture industry executives who wanted to keep using a potentially harmful pesticide. That promise came just weeks before the EPA officially reversed a proposed a ban on that pesticide which has been linked to lower I.Q. and developmental delays. CNN's Rene Marsh joins me now. Rene, what are we learning from the 700 pages of internal agency documents?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION, AND GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the newly released internal EPA e-mails are raising eyebrows for some. The e-males depicts an agency that wants to redefine its relationship with the industry it is supposed to regulate specifically the agriculture industry. The internal e-mail suggests that the EPA wants to take a new approach to an industry again that it's supposed to regulate. One e-mail details what one top EPA official told a farming industry group just weeks before the EPA made a decision on whether to ban a dangerous pesticide. Within that e- mail, it says the new administration is committed to developing new relationships between the EPA and the agricultural community, a relationship based on partnerships and not on regulations and enforcement.

What is so stunning about the words in that e-mail is that the very purpose of the EPA is to regulate it. It is a regulatory agency. Just under a month before the EPA rejected a ban on the widely used pesticide chlorpyrifos, e-mails show that administrator Scott Pruitt promised a "new day for the agriculture industry that wanted to continue to use this pesticide. Now, Jake, the issue is that scientists believe that this pesticide is connected to developmental problems in children. And so, the concern is that these e-mails show a government agency that's working for the industry's interests instead of the public's interest.

TAPPER: What does the EPA have to say about all this since the release of these internal e-mails?

MARSH: Well, the EPA is saying that these e-mails take everything out of context. And they say, and we have a partial statement from them here. "It doesn't change the fact that we continue to examine the science surrounding chlorpyrifos while taking into account the USDA's scientific concerns." And then go onto essentially say that you know, even though we're seeing the words that we saw in black and white, this is all being taken out of context, Jake.

TAPPER: And the e-mail suggests that some EPA employee found this decision frightening.

MARSH: Right, because there has been this feeling within the scientific community that this pesticide is dangerous, particularly for children. And some career EPA employees who made the presentation about how the Agency could handle this pesticide decision. Political appointees like the Chief of Staff who looked over the options and made their decision, we now know what the decision is, that EPA Chief wrote in an e-mail, I think we scared them, referring to the career employees who were trying to tell the EPA not to ban the pesticide.-to ban the pesticide, I should say.

TAPPER: All right, Rene Marsh, thank you -- Rene Marsh, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Be sure to tune in tonight for the exclusive live Town Hall with House Speaker Paul Ryan that immediately follows the President's primetime address on Afghanistan which will be at 9:00 Eastern. I'll be joined by Speaker Ryan here in Racine, Wisconsin.