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Jake Tapper On His New Duties At “State of the Union,” Nepal, Baltimore, and WHCA

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Jake Tapper joined me to start today’s program.




HH: I am joined as we begin this week in D.C. and next week in D.C. by Jake Tapper of CNN. Jake, great to have you and what a news day. Let me run down these stories, but first, congratulations, I think, on taking over State of the Union. I guess you’re going to be working 24/7 now.

JT: Yeah, it’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m looking for it. It’s going to be, I mean, look, you know this, it’s, this is going to be a really exciting presidential election ever…it already is. And when the candidacies get up and running, and the campaigns are up and running, it’s going to be even more fun. And to have a role like this, to have a perch like State of the Union. I’m sure it’s much like you feel about your show. It’s an honor, and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be fun.

HH: You are now permanently residing on my DVR and congratulations. That’s going to make Sundays even better than they are, and they’re already getting better. Here’s the news, Jake Tapper. We have a nightmare in Nepal. We’ve got violence in Baltimore with seven police injured at a Baltimore mall, and who knows what’s going on there at this moment. Apple has blown out its earnings estimate. The President had this very controversial White House Correspondents Dinner, and Eli Lake is reporting at this hour that John Boehner said this weekend that there aren’t the votes necessary to pass a resolution of disapproval of the Iran deal. Let’s start with Nepal. I know CNN is rushing assets there. I don’t know if Anderson Cooper is going there, but this could be almost as bad as the China earthquake of a decade ago.

JT: Yeah, it’s horrific. Right now, the estimates are more than 4,000 dead. Some experts in the area think it could reach as high as 10,000. Obviously in a developing nation, an impoverished nation like Nepal, there isn’t the kind of ability to detect how many people may have perished as there would be in a more developed place. And you know, it’s already a place that was suffering even before the earthquake. And now, it’s really horrific. Sanjay Gupta is there, a number of other correspondents. This is one of the great things about CNN, on being on the team at CNN, is that we are an international news organization and have correspondents all over the world. I was actually, we were planning on doing a lot, a great deal on Nepal coverage today, including a closing piece that would have been of interest to you, Hugh, because we were going to take a look at the people who were predicting, as seismologists were saying that there was going to be a big earthquake in Nepal and it happened. What about California? When are we going to get the big one in California? How prepared is that state? But ultimately, another story took over our airwaves right before we went to show.

HH: And I’ll go to Baltimore in just a second. I’ve got to say, I’ve got Team Rubicon coming on a little bit later, and I know you’ve covered Team Rubicon in the past, Jake Tapper. These are veterans of war who deploy to hard hit areas, because the abnormal is normal for them. They don’t panic. They focus, they execute. But I think it’s going to be an unusual rescue mission, because this is just terrain that no one works in.

JT: Yeah, no, I mean, this is very difficult. This is a very difficult place to go. And the challenges are just tremendous. There are already rescue and aid workers already there just digging through rubble by hand, because they don’t have the ability, they don’t have the infrastructure there. There’s power blackouts, people that don’t know where to go. Sanjay Gupta is there doing work on patients. And the hospitals are suffering. He’s had, doctors carrying patients by hand to another structure because the hospital was so damaged. I think he has performed at least one surgery, Sanjay, while there. And you know, he’s a neurosurgeon, obviously.

HH: You know, I have to ask you about Sanjay.

JT: So any help they can get.

HH: I saw his special on dope in Colorado for epileptic children. I thought it was one of the best things I’ve seen on TV in a long time. He works harder than you do. I mean, that guy is always working.

JT: I don’t know if he works harder than I do, but he certainly saves a lot more lives.

HH: (laughing) All right, let’s go to Baltimore. I don’t know Baltimore well enough. I have appeared on programs with Mayor Rawlings. I know she’s a good mayor. But man, is it melting down in a hurry, Jake Tapper. What’s the latest that you know about the violence which seems to be crescendoing there?

JT: Well, I mean, what seems to be the case is that there were two threats that were going on as of this morning/this afternoon. One is police heard, and they vetted it through an intelligence who deemed it to be a credible threat that gangs, Cripps, Bloods, others, were teaming up and were targeting, planning on targeting law enforcement. This is a threat that now the FBI is looking into, I’m told, and that they’ve shared that information with other law enforcement agencies. Then apparently what happened just a few hours ago is that high school students begin massing and throwing objects at police. And we have a couple of reporters on the ground there. Athena Jones is one of them. She said she talked to somebody who had been told on Facebook don’t be in such and such a neighborhood after 2:30. And you know, we saw it in real time with rocks and pipes and bottles and bricks thrown at police. The police say that seven officers have been injured, one of them not responsive. Others have broken bones, really ugly, and of course, we saw in real time some of the violence being perpetrated against the community there by these rioters. At least two police cars attacked, one of them set on fire. So very ugly, some arrests going on right now, and you know, it’s awful. Obviously, this comes a week and a day after the death of Freddy Gray, the 25 year old who was killed and died in police custody. Freddie Gray’s family buried him today. They’ve been pleading for calm, pleading for peace. But obviously, a lot of these rioters and looters, we saw looting of CVS live on air, have, this isn’t about, for them, Freddie Gray. I mean, I suppose there are any number of reasons why you see this kind of violence in the cities today, in this day and age. But it’s just really a very ugly scene playing out on the streets of Baltimore.

HH: And I will keep people posted throughout the broadcast. After the break, I’m going to talk about Export Import Bank and some of the big political high stakes unfolding in the next six weeks here, but I will follow that. Let me ask you about the White House Correspondents Dinner, Jake Tapper. I want to play two things back to back. First of all, here’s the President’s most controversial bit, his bucket list excerpt, cut number one:

BO: After the midterm elections, my advisors asked me, Mr. President, do you have a bucket list? And I said well, I have something that rhymes with bucket list. Take executive action on immigration action? Bucket. New climate regulations? Bucket. It’s the right thing to do.

HH: Now Jake Tapper, here’s a second clip. This is Jerry Seinfeld a few months ago using essentially the same routine.

JS: A lot of people around this age make a bucket list. I made a bucket list, and I turned the B to an F, and I was done with it.

HH: So the President essentially went on, I can’t play the Seinfeld bit, because he didn’t put in the appropriate thing. Had you heard that the President ripped off Seinfeld to do this?

JT: No, I hadn’t, but now that you mention it, I guess I had heard it before. That’s funny. I didn’t know that.

HH: So were you at the dinner?

JT: I was. I was. You know, it’s kind of, you know, I saw Chuck there, Chuck Todd, and we were talking about being there, and he had an observation that I think is on target. It’s work. I mean, for, you know, it’s a work thing that you go to. It’s not, I’ll tell you, for my wife, it’s something that she enjoys going to, because she doesn’t really, you know, we don’t go to a lot of fancy dress balls, so it is something that she enjoys gusseting herself up for and going to. But I mean, you know, it’s kind of a drag, and I totally understand why people hate the optics of it, or that people look down on Washington. I saw somebody on Twitter, @redseas, I think it was, saying after watching some coverage or reading tweets about it, he understood the French Revolution a whole lot better.

HH: (laughing)

JT: I mean, I understand why people don’t, why people on the left and the right and the center don’t like it.

HH: But the question is Ezra Klein wrote the President wasn’t being funny. He was being pointed and making commentary, and there’s a debate at Powerline Blog. I’ll have John Hinderaker on later. Did you think it was qualitatively different than years past?

JT: I just think it was, it’s so self-congratulatory and self-referential and so self-reverential, and you know, the stuff that it’s supposed to be about, which is the scholarships and the other, you know, recognizing good journalism, are just so overwhelmed and outshone by the parties and the elitism. And it’s just, I don’t know, I just think, look, I’m a member of the White House Correspondents Association. And I think they do important work in pressing for access and in rewarding journalism that speaks truth to power. But I just, to be completely honest, I just think it’s gotten out of control.

HH: Jake Tapper, always a pleasure, and congratulations on taking over State of the Union. We’ll be watching every Sunday live or on TiVo. Thank you, Jake.

End of interview.


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