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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Can Iran Be Trusted?; Academy Award Nominations; Christie Bridge Subpoenas Issued

Aired January 16, 2014 - 16:00   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: What a week it's been, a week full of shootings all across the country, but now a newly surfaced audiotape may give us insight into the type of mind that could take a gun into a public place and just start firing away.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The national lead, he claimed his name was Greg and he made a reference to a -- quote -- "teenage mall shooter" on the air with a call-in radio now. Now a new report claims that Greg was none other than Newtown shooter Adam Lanza. This may be the first time you will hear the Newtown killer in his own words.

The world lead. If Iran backed out of a deal to reduce uranium enrichment, how long would it take the country to ramp up back to current levels? Well, according to Iran's top negotiator in Geneva, less than 24 hours. Josh Rogin from The Daily Beast is here to break the story on THE LEAD.

And the pop culture lead. Seriously, nothing for the Coen brothers or Tom Hanks or Idris Elba? Really? The Academy Award nominations are out, honoring a superior year in film. We will help you get a jump on winning your Oscar pool.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. WE will begin with the national lead.

We couldn't even make it two weeks into the new year before gun violence once again shattered the image of safety that many of simply take for granted in our public places. And what is sadly at least the third example just this week, a man with a handgun entered a supermarket in Elkhart, Indiana, and shot two women dead. One of the victims was a shopper, the other an employee.

Police say officers arrived and fatally shot the suspect when he turned the gun on them. He's been identified as 22-year-old Shawn Walter Bair. It's unclear what the motive may have been. The police are saying the victims may have known the shooter.

This follows another shooting incident at a Roswell, New Mexico, middle school on Tuesday. The suspect in that one, a 12-year-old boy. The school reopened today, two days after the suspect allegedly brought a shotgun police identified as having belonged to his parents into a crowded gym before school and started firing. Two children were shot, a 12-year-old boy who is currently listed in critical condition and a 13-year-old girl, who is listed in stable condition.

That shooting, of course, followed another at a Florida cineplex on Monday. Police say a former police officer in Florida fatally gunned down a father who had been texting inside the Tampa area movie theater. Now a couple says they believe they came close to having an alteration with the same suspect at the same cineplex two weeks before after he supposedly turned them into management for texting.

One minute you're texting your kid before the movie starts or you're chatting with friends before the school day begins or you're debating buying a Snickers bar at the checkout, and the next minute your life could be changed forever, if you're lucky enough to walk away from incidents like these alive.

We have gotten reminders of that all too often in this country after Tucson, after Aurora, and after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. The shooter in that nightmare, Adam Lanza, coldly massacred 12 children ages 6 and 7 and six adults at the school before taking his own life.

Now, 13 months after that horror scarred the national psyche, we may be hearing the shooter's voice for the very first time. A tape has turned up reportedly of a phone call that Adam Lanza made to a radio show a little more than a year before his murder spree.

We're aware that some of you object to coverage of shooters like Adam Lanza. Some believe that even mentioning his name at this date lends him a prominence that would be better time spent on his victims' memories. We do take those feelings to heart.

But at the same time, if listening to this tape can help us glean any insight at all into the type of mind that could carry out a horror like Newtown and possibly help us stop something like this from happening again, well, we believe it's worth it.

And that's why we're playing it for you now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER (voice-over): One year and three days before America was shocked by what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Adam Lanza, the person responsible for that massacre, may have called into an Oregon radio station to explain his take on a different ugly news story.

CALLER: Some little thing he experienced was the last straw, and he was overwhelmed at the life that he had.

TAPPER: "The New York Daily News" has obtained audio from a broadcast called Anarchy Radio.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got Greg on the phone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh! Greg. OK. How's it going?

CALLER: Hi. Good. TAPPER: According to "The Daily News," Lanza posed as Greg when he called into the radio show.

The newspaper spoke to two of Lanza's former classmates who say this is his voice, the voice of the 20-year-old who killed his mother, six teachers, 20 young students, and himself in Connecticut in 2012.

CALLER: so I thought I would bring up Travis the chimp. Do you remember him?

TAPPER: The topic of the seven-minute call was Travis, the domesticated chimpanzee who was killed by police in 2009 after he viciously mauled his owner's friend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The chimp killed my friend.

TAPPER: The gruesome incident occurred less than an hour from the home Adam Lanza shared with his mother.

CALLER: Travis wasn't an untamed monster at all. He wasn't just feigning domestication. He was civilized. He was able to integrate into society.

TAPPER: The caller likens the chimpanzee to a -- quote -- "mentally handicapped human" -- unquote -- around the age of 20, the same age, as it turns out, Adam Lanza would be when he committed his horrific crime.

CALLER: His attack can be seen entirely parallel to the attacks and random acts of violence that you bring up on your show every week, committed by humans, which the mainstream also has no explanation for and...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

CALLER: ... and, actual humans, I just don't think it would be such a stretch to say that he very well could have been a teenage mall shooter or something like that.

TAPPER: We now know that Lanza was fascinated by guns and gun violence, studying mass killers online and according to "The Daily News" contributing to Shocked Beyond Belief, a fan site for a video game based on the Columbine High School massacre.

Under the name Smiggles, "The Daily News" reports, Lanza posted about his call to the radio show and about his own disturbing behavior. In January 2011, Smiggles posted the deeply troubling sentence, "I castrated myself when I was 15 to rebel against society."

The man that police say posted as Smiggles also challenged others to rebel violently, writing, "I'm still waiting for a mass shooter who eschews .9-millimeter pistols and instead buys an AK-47."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Now, we should point out that CNN has not independently confirmed that the voice is Lanza's, but the journalist who wrote the "Daily News" story also wrote a book on Newtown and we know him and he's very well-versed in that horrible story.

So assuming that this is Adam Lanza, does this conversation that he had in 2011 shed any light on why he committed those horrific acts in Newtown a year later and what can we glean, if anything, from this?

Joining me now is psychiatrist Gail Saltz, author of "Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie."

Gail, thanks for being here.

Some who would listen to this tape would say this is clearly a warning of what was to come. What do you make of it all?

DR. GAIL SALTZ, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF PSYCHIATRY, THE NEW YORK PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL AT WEILL-CORNELL SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: You know, unfortunately, I don't think that you could see this as a red flag of what was to come.

In retrospect, if this was indeed him, of course it makes you question did he feel identified with this chimpanzee, in the sense that, yes, he was essentially talking about himself in a way. It's very possible. But in looking forward, you would not listen to this and say, this is a red flag, I'm concerned this person would commit violence.

Most people that say something like this or even violent things do not go on to commit violence. And there was no direct threat. So, I think, unfortunately, I think the wish is that you could listen to something like this and then say, OK, we should notify about this person because it would stop something.

And I'm sad to say that even psychiatrists who have patients in their office who would say something like this can't necessarily predict who will actually go on to commit a violent act, because the vast majority of them will not.

TAPPER: What would you take -- if this was a patient of yours and he told you a story like that, what would you take from that, from that anecdote? It certainly seems to show -- I'm not a psychiatrist, quite obviously, but it certainly seems to betray a certain nihilism about the world.

SALTZ: I think if I listened to that, as a patient, I would wonder why that person identified with a creature who was -- quote -- "domesticated," but committed a violent act. What was it that drew him in about that or what in him felt like that?

And, again, it might be pure fantasy. In fact, most of the time, it is and it really bespeaks maybe an inner aggression or an inner feeling of being wild rather vs. having to follow the rules and, if you think about it, of being a young person who society is trying to tell you to be one way.

Young people are often struggling with, what are the rules, can I break them? Can I take risks? Will I still be accepted if I don't? Do I feel like rebelling? And how aggressively will I rebel? So, those are themes that many adolescents are struggling with. You wouldn't necessarily know that that meant that they were struggling with them to the degree that clearly Adam Lanza was.

TAPPER: Lastly, Gail, Adam Lanza's father has said that he is willing to work to get his son's medical records released to the state commission.

What would you be looking for if you had access to those records? And how can we take the story of Adam Lanza and learn from it in terms of preventing these types of things from happening in the future?

SALTZ: I think you would have to look at whether he was quite directly alluding to threats. I think you would have to look at whether there was any psychosis involved.

In other words, the symptom where you have a break with reality, was he having any hallucinations, was he having any delusions? Because Asperger's, which is supposedly what the issue was, does not correlate with violent behavior. But you have to wonder if there was something really more going on that ultimately led him down this path where you would have been concerned that he needed more treatment, or hospitalization, or alerting to authorities.

TAPPER: Gail Saltz, thank you so much.

Coming up next: President Obama says we're close to a historic nuclear agreement with Iran. But can Iran be trusted hold up its end of the deal? One of the key negotiators is telling the Iranian people the promises they have made could all be reversed in less than a day.

Plus, he says that they knew and they didn't care. The mayor of Charleston, West Virginia, takes on the company responsible for the chemical leak that tainted the water supply for more than 300,000 people. He will join me coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

The world lead now. It was an interview given by the key on Iran's nuclear program. But he had to have known the whole world would be watching. Appearing on state TV in Iran, Abbas Araqchi said, even if a deal goes down that would force Iran to dismantle or freeze some of its nuclear program, the decision could be reversed and the program could be back up and running within less than a day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABBAS ARAQCHI, IRANIAN NUCLEAR NEGOTIATOR (through translator): We can return again to 20 percent enrichment in less than one day. And we can convert the material again.

Therefore, the structure of our nuclear program is preserved. Whenever we feel the other side is not following through with its commitments, whenever we feel there are other motives involved, whenever they say they are under pressure from Congress or something else, they take action against their commitments, say, put in place new sanctions. We will immediately revert to the current status quo.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, the timing of the release of this interview couldn't be worse for the White House as it tries to persuade members of Congress not to pass new sanctions against Iran. The president met with Democratic senator yesterday, insisting new sanctions would only mess up negotiations to get Iran to back off its nuclear ambitions.

So what impact, if any, could this have on the pending deal and Congress' next move?

Let's bring in the man who broke this story. Josh Rogin is a senior correspondent for national security and politics at The Daily Beast.

Josh, thanks for being here.

A six-month interim agreement is supposed to take effect on Monday. Could that be in jeopardy at all with this statement about -- he seems to be pooh-poohing the whole thing. We could just go back to normal within a day.

JOSH ROGIN, "NEWSWEEK"/DAILY BEAST: Right.

So, the details of this agreement are still secret. My sources say that the Obama administration has decided to give it to Congress, but not to the American people. So, the bits that we do know are coming from the Iranian side and from statements like this.

So, what we are hearing from Iranian officials is that this agreement is very fragile and that if Congress moved forward with sanctions, that could blow up the deal, and that they could return to their enrichment activities as they were so quickly.

That's going to make it difficult for the White House to sell this deal as a good deal to Democrats who they hope they keep in line.

TAPPER: Earlier this week, the same negotiator claiming that there was a secret side deal that would allow the Iranians to continue enriching uranium for a few months. The White House responded to that by basically saying he was playing to a domestic audience.

Here's what Jay Carney had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What the Iranian leaders say for their domestic audience, purpose, is far less meaningful than what they do and what the agreements commit them to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, the White House response to your story -- they have not had an official response, but the basic idea that I've gotten is this deal is a big deal no matter what anybody says and probably more in line with what Carney said to this other thing.

ROGIN: Right. So, the Iranians are going to have to sell this or at least explain this to their domestic audience and that's what they are trying to do. It's not an easy sell for them. But the Obama administration is going to have to do the same thing with their domestic audiences. This is going to play out over the next six months. It's going to be a hard fight in Congress. That's why it's not over. They've been pretty good at keeping Democrats or a majority of Democrats on their side.

But without a lot more information and without some more details that are going to contradict what very well could be exaggerated claims by the Iranians, Democrats are going to have a hard time defending their staying with the administration on this issue.

TAPPER: The big tension here is the United States is releasing some sanctions, billions of dollars will be made available to the Iranians, in stages, not all at once. But if there are skeptics on Capitol Hill, they could possibly become more skeptical when they hear the statements saying this really isn't any big deal. That's not -- I'm paraphrasing, but like we can reverse this within 24 hours.

Do you think this will have a direct impact on members of Congress?

ROGIN: I think those people who are pushing for the sanctions legislations sponsor by Senators Menendez and Kirk to go forward will definitely use these kinds of quotes to make the argument that the Iranians are not serious, that they can't be trusted and that any final deal will have to include a complete ban on enrichment and a dismantlement of their enrichment capability. Those who defend the administration's position will say that this is just bluster and that those details will all be worked out within six months if and when a final deal is reached.

TAPPER: Very briefly, as long as I have you here, Republicans in the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Benghazi, singled out Secretary of State Hillary Clinton very specifically. The overall report did not, although it was very tough on the State Department not meeting requests for security. But the Republicans did.

Do you think this is going to have an impact on Secretary of State Clinton, should she run for president?

ROGIN: Right. The Intelligence Committee report identified two officials, Patrick Kennedy and Charlie Lamb, as being extremely unhelpful and derelict in their duties prior to the attacks of September 11th by leaving our base there undermanned and under- protected. Hillary Clinton has said that this happened on her watch. So, she's ultimately responsible.

So, it's not an issue of her direct actions. It's an issue of her management of the State Department and the environment that she created regarding diplomatic security when she was there. You can be 100 percent sure that this will continue to be an issue pushed by Republicans well through 2016.

TAPPER: All right. Rosh Rogin of "The Daily Beast," thank you so much of your time. We appreciate it.

When the Obama administration made its case to Congress for military intervention in Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry presented the evidence that Bashar al-Assad's regime had used chemical weapons as ironclad, something echoed by Vice President Joe Biden in a speech to the American Legion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no doubt who is responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria, the Syrian regime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: But now, a new report is raising doubt of Assad's forces were even capable of firing the Syrian gas filled rocket that rocked to Damascus suburb on August 21st. The story from the McClatchy news service charges the range of the rocket allegedly used in that horrific attack was too short for the device to have been fired from Syrian government controlled territory. The report goes to say the OPCW inspectors tasked with dismantling Assad's arsenal did not uncover any rockets matching the weapon U.S. officials purport was used that night.

Well, officials admit the evidence of absence doesn't necessarily mean the absence of evidence. But Syrian officials could have destroyed or hid such weapons to make certain they couldn't be implicated in the attacks. It does raise serious questions about whether the Obama administration intentionally misrepresented evidence to convince Congress.

As to comments on the report, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence told McClatchy that its conclusion that the Syrian government was responsible remains unchanged and they are 100 percent sure that it was Assad who did it.

Coming up on THE LEAD, subpoenas and lawyers. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is getting legal help as the top Democrat in the sate prepares several subpoenas for Christie staff over the so-called bridgegate controversy.

Plus, when it's like to cheat -- what is it like to cheat on America's sweetheart? One of the stars of "August Osage County", Ewan McGregor, tells me about time on the set with Oscar nominees Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

On the politics lead, a special New Jersey assembly committee just announced it's subpoenaing 17 people and three groups related to the mother of all traffic jams. Investigators won't say exactly who's on the receiving end of those subpoenas just yet. But they'll likely be aides and former staffers to Governor Chris Christie.

So, the Christie administration is lawyering up. The Christie administration has hired an attorney to assist in the internal investigation into bridgegate and the move comes after lawmakers hired one of the guys who put Rod Blagojevich away in Illinois.

Erin McPike is live in Trenton for us -- Erin.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, I just came out of the hearing that the special committee had, then they went and having executive session where they decided on these 20 names, came out and had a press conference. So, it is 17 individuals, as you said, and three organizations.

They don't want to give us the names just yet because they want to serve those people first. I want to play for you something that Chairman John Wisniewski said just now in the hearings so we understand where he's coming from.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ASSEMBLYMAN JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY: I want to be very clear, though, those people who received them -- some of them may expect them, some of them may not. I would hate for them to be watching one of the media athletes that are here and find out on national TV that they're going to be receiving a subpoena.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCPIKE: Now, part of that is because he said that this has gone much farther than what he initially expected in the fall, that the names would be just part of the Port Authority, but obviously it's gotten much bigger than that and has included more people within Christie's staff. But those people will be served tonight and maybe into the morning. We may learn those names sometime late tonight if that all gets done tonight, we may hear sometime in the morning. But over the next 24 hours, all those names will be known.

Now, as you mentioned, both sides have lawyered up. The investigative committee has brought on Reid Schar, and he was an assistant U.S. attorney in Illinois and prosecuted two corruption charges against Rod Blagojevich, who used to be the governor of Illinois who obviously is now in jail.

Now, in the hearing, some Republicans on this committee were a little bit upset by that. One said there are 56,000 lawyers in New Jersey, surely you could find one. The response from the Democrats was, we wanted not just competent, but the best in the country and someone without a conflict of interest. And that's they brought on this attorney.

Now, on the flip side, the Christie administration has brought Randy Mastro to conduct both their internal review and to respond to these other investigations. Now, Randy Mastro was also an assistant U.S. attorney in New York. He was also the deputy mayor of New York, a big Rudy Giuliani guy. And as you know, there are a lot of crossover between the Christie administration and his political team and also Rudy Giuliani's.

So, a big thing to watch but obviously the scope is very national here, Jake.

TAPPER: Erin McPike, thank you so much.

When we come back, need a little help with your Oscar poll picks? The list of nominees is out. Next, I'll ask one of the country's top film critics who should win.

Plus, a new warning to pregnant women living in one West Virginia town: don't drink the tap water. But if it's not safe for them, why is it safe for anyone else? I'll ask the mayor of Charleston, West Virginia, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)