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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Unrest in Ukraine; Juror Comes Forward in Michael Dunn Trial; U.S. Army Outpost Accidentally Bombed By Air Force

Aired February 19, 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: President Obama personally puts the Ukrainian government on notice, demanding an end to the death in the streets there. But how seriously do despots take our threats anymore?

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The world lead, a threat from the U.S. raising the specter of sanctions against the Ukrainian government for the bloody crackdown on protesters in the capital of Kiev. Will it make any difference?

The national lead. He gunned down an unarmed black teenager after a dispute over loud music. Was it murder? The jury could not decide. But now a woman who served on that very jury is saying, yes, it was murder. She also says race was not a factor in the case. Do you believe them?

The sports lead. The odds of her medaling are about the same as seeing Vladimir Putin ice dancing in Sochi. Even fellow members of team USA say she's weighing them down. So why is Lolo Jones perhaps the most buzzed-about athlete at the Games?

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

We begin of course with the world lead. Is it possible that what we're witnessing in Ukraine is no longer just a protest, but the first battle in a civil war that could tear the country apart? The protests and the violence spreading outside the capital city of Kiev today. This is the scene in a city 200 miles to the west of Kiev, where a woman was shot and seriously injured during a protest outside Ukraine's main security agency, this just a day after bloody clashes in Kiev between police and anti-government protesters left at least 26 people dead, protesters and police officers.

President Obama on his trip to Mexico backed up threats of new economic sanctions that Secretary of State John Kerry made earlier against the Ukrainian government.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We hold the Ukrainian government primarily responsible for making sure that it is dealing with peaceful protesters in an appropriate way.

We will be monitoring very carefully the situation, recognizing that, along with our European partners and the international community, there will be consequences if people step over the line.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: If people stem over the line, over the line, a line that is ill-defined as of now.

A previous line, the president's red line if Syria used chemical weapons against its own people, well, that line looms large. The question is, will this line have any effect? And these striking images have many Americans asking another pertinent question: Where exactly is Ukraine again?

The capital of Kiev is nearly equidistant from Moscow to the east and Warsaw, Poland, to the west, give or take a few dozen miles. Ukraine is torn right now between Russia and the European Union. The protests began after President Viktor Yanukovych rejected a trade deal with the European Union. It was a move seen by many as subservient to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is pushing Ukraine to join the Eurasian customs union, which Moscow leads.

After Ukraine said thanks but no thanks to the E.U., it received $15 billion in bailout money from Russia. Critics have said that Russia still treats Ukraine as if it is one of its provinces and that's what these deadly demonstrations are really about. Protesters see their government as far too cozy with Putin's Russia and they want to link Ukraine's future with the West, turning this into something of a proxy war between the West and Russia.

This is how Kiev's Independence Square looked back in 2011, well before the uprising, a postcard-worthy view of one of the capital city's central landmarks before it became the epicenter of the protest movement. This is how it looks now, a charred -- barricades burning, evidence of violence all over the ground.

Our senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, is standing by live in Kiev.

Nick, what's happening there at this hour?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as we have seen intermittently, there have been large columns of riot police moving down the road beside me here.

Hard to know, Jake, if that is a shift change, they have been out long hours in the cold here, or a sign of escalation here. There are certainly more than there were about six hours ago. Given the fact we are going to see key European Union foreign ministers arriving in Kiev tomorrow, I put the odds as being low that you're going to see a substantial activity behind me to try and re-clear the square, but frankly not a lot has been predictable in the past 48 hours.

We have heard some very loud bangs here. That's probably flash-bang grenades to try and stir people up behind me, tension rising here and the people we saw just in the last hour or so talking about the protests, some didn't want to have their faces filmed, concerned that the new framing of the operation against protesters here as being anti-terror. That certainly escalates the stakes down on the ground, Jake.

TAPPER: Nick, we learned today the head of Ukraine's army has been replaced. Why?

WALSH: It's always extraordinarily troubling, Jake, at moments like this when key personnel in the security structures that are called here suddenly end up in a different job.

You have to ask, did he refuse to do something or did he want to do something that Viktor Yanukovych wanted to see happen here? Very troubling if that's the case, because it means that inside the inner circle people are not talking necessarily off the same script.

That's what I think people are going to look for in the days ahead. We heard the head of the security services make that sweeping statement about an anti-terror operation, saying how there are 15,000 weapons in the arms of protesters. I have not seen any of them yet. We have seen lots of videos of what appears to be live fire used against protesters.

So a real etching up in the tension here, one protester saying to me, look, we're in a war here. Nobody can help us. He also thought though that the army would end up on the protesters' side. Many people saying it won't even come to that, the army will not be called in. Ukrainian officials promising they won't. But still something has to end the standoff and there aren't any talks happening that look like they could do that -- Jake.

TAPPER: Nick Paton Walsh, I will remind you that Reporters Without Borders says that more than two dozen reporters have been injured in Ukraine protests, one of them killed. Please be safe, my friend.

How did things turn so deadly in the Ukraine and what does the U.S. plan to do about it?

I want to bring in Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Richard, thanks for joining us.

You just heard the president, who said there will be consequences if people step over the line. He seemed to include both the military and protesters in what he was saying. What are these potential consequences?

RICHARD HAASS, AUTHOR, "WAR OF NECESSITY, WAR OF CHOICE: A MEMOIR OF TWO IRAQ WARS": Well, in the short run, Jake, there really aren't any consequences, in the sense that the United States can't determine in the near term the outcome on the ground.

In all of these situations, it really depends upon whether the security establishment is able and willing to deal with protesters. And if the government stays strong and united and, to be blunt, is willing to kill their own people, then they will prevail in the short run. And then perhaps over time, sort of economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation the United States and the E.U. could introduce could have some effect. Mind you, though, that Russia would likely try to undermine it through giving economic help of its own.

This is not Syria, where the United States did have real options. The president chose not to implement them. Here, we really don't have very good options to introduce.

TAPPER: You brought up Syria. How real is it, the notion that President Yanukovych is sitting there listening to the president threaten action, threaten consequences if a line is crossed, and he looks at Bashar al-Assad, who's still in power, even though President Obama asked him to step down two-and-a-half years ago, said that there would be actions if he crossed the red line, used chemical weapons against his own people, he did, he still is in power, perhaps even stronger than he was a year ago?

Is that a fair criticism?

HAASS: Well, again, even if that hadn't happened, I don't think President Obama would have terribly good choices to bring to bear in Ukraine.

But the fact that it did happen, sure. The repercussions of Syria are not limited to Syria. Japan and Korea have to think about it as they deal with, say, China. All across the world, people take their cues from everything the United States says and does or doesn't say and doesn't do.

But, again, here the United States is not going to send in soldiers to deal with the situation. The most we could probably do is introduce some kind of economic sanctions, and that's not going to change the day to day. If Mr. Yanukovych decides that he has to use -- order force in order to stay in power and he gets backing from Mr. Putin, as he would be likely to, then he's going to do just that.

And the real question is not anything the United States says or does. The real question is, are his soldiers willing to take orders and essentially kill their own people? If they are, like we saw in Iran a few years ago, the government will prevail. If, however, you have a situation like Egypt again a few years ago where the military was not willing to use force against its own people, then the government would likely fall.

That's the key variable, not anything the United States says or does.

TAPPER: And, Richard, lastly, there's this video going around getting a lot of attention. There's a documentary called "A Whisper to a Roar," which follows democracy activists in Egypt, Malaysia, Ukraine, Venezuela, Zimbabwe.

They released this clip of a Ukrainian protester. It's got nearly 1.5 million views. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm the Ukrainian, the native of Kiev. We have this freedom in our minds, and now I ask you to build this freedom in our country. You can help us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, Richard, this young woman, a very attractive spokeswoman for the opposition, talking about freedom, talking about democracy, is it that simple? Is that what the opposition is about?

HAASS: Well, these things take on a dynamic of their own, so the kind of things the regime is now offering might have been acceptable a week ago, but the opposition, sensing weakness, sensing possibility, has raised its own demands, all of which decreases the chances, Jake, of a peaceful diplomatic compromise or settlement.

So my own hunch is, this is going to continue to escalate, and the real question is how long is the opposition willing and able to hang in there against much greater force, and, again, how willing and able will the government and the security forces be able to stay united and to use force against their own people?

That, more than anything, quite honestly, the United States or Russia do from the wings is going to determine the near-term outcome in the streets of Kiev.

TAPPER: Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, thank you so much.

HAASS: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up, she believed he was guilty of murder, but it wasn't racially motivated -- what one juror is now saying about the shooting of an unarmed black teenager coming up next.

Plus, they unknowingly put their lives at risk to help save the lives of others. Now dozens of U.S. service members are suffering from serious health problems and they're blaming it on that rescue mission. Our LEAD special investigation is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

The national lead now. This is a case that's once again put issues of race and self-defense in the national spotlight. And reaction to the verdict handed down in a Florida courtroom has ranged from outrage to confusion.

Michael Dunn admits that he shot and killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis after a dispute over loud music at a Jacksonville, Florida, gas station. Dunn says he asked the teen and his friends to turn down the rap music, then he says they threatened him and Davis pulled out a gun. So, he shot the teen to protect himself.

But there was never any evidence that Davis or his friends had a weapon. Jurors could not agree on whether the teen was shot in self- defense but they did find Dunn guilty on attempted second-degree murder charges for shooting at Davis' friends as they tried to get away.

It took four days for jurors to reach their verdict, and now one of them has finally come forward explaining what led to the deadlock on the murder charges.

Here is what juror number four told ABC News "Nightline."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

INTERVIEWER: Do you think Michael Dunn got away with murder?

VALERIE, MICHAEL DUNN JUROR: At this point, I do, myself, personally, yes.

INTERVIEWER: You all first took your first poll, guilt or innocence, on the murder of Jordan Davis. What was the vote?

VALERIE: Ten to two.

INTERVIEWER: Ten people thinking he was guilty?

VALERIE: Yes, sir.

INTERVIEWER: And two said --

VALERIE: Self-defense.

INTERVIEWER: Do you think Michael Dunn had options?

VALERIE: Oh, yes, sir.

INTERVIEWER: What were his options, do you think?

VALERIE: Roll your window up. Ignore the taunting. Put your car in reverse. Back up to the front of the store. Move the parking spot over. That's my feeling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: The parents of the shooting victim, Jordan Davis, are also now reacting publicly to the verdict. They say while they understand what jurors were up against, justice has yet to be served in the death of their son.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LUCIA MCBATH, JORDAN DAVIS' MOTHER: We know without a doubt that they were posed with a very delicate but a very profound decision that they had to make. And we believe absolutely with all of our hearts that they did everything that they could to come to what they believe was the most just decision.

RON DAVIS, JORDAN DAVIS' FATHER: The jury instruction on the stand your ground part is very confusing, so I do think she did the best she could as a juror, but I think that those laws have to be rewritten, and I'm going to be one that's going to continue to fight to have stand your ground laws rewritten.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Jordan Davis' parents talking to "Good Morning America" this morning.

Joining me now with more on this is Georgetown law professor and former prosecutor Paul Butler.

Paul, I know -- let me, first of all, play a snippet of the interview with juror number four. She was asked about the racial component to this trial.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

INTERVIEWER: For a lot of folk in America, they would say, white man shoots and kills a 17-year-old black boy. How could it not be about race on some level?

VALERIE: Sitting in that room it was never presented that way. We looked at it as a bad situation where teenagers were together and words were spoken and lines were crossed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: She says it was never presented that way. And you say that's a fault of the prosecutor.

PAUL BUTLER, LAW PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: Look, when you have a case where you have a black teenaged male victim and a white male middle-aged defendant and the fight is over loud rap music, it's all about race. And the prosecutor ignored that at her peril.

You know, in the George Zimmerman trial, some of the jurors said they identified more with Zimmerman, the defendant, than they did with Trayvon Martin, the victim. I think we had a sense of that here.

You have to humanize the victim, especially, again, when it's a young black male.

TAPPER: Is there evidence that could have been introduced that he was racially biased? I know we've heard of all sorts of other stuff, but stuff that was admissible.

BUTLER: Well, you know, I think first of all they should have done a much better job in selecting the jurors. In the voir dire, they had an opportunity to ask them about questions about race, about how they feel about victimization by whites against African-Americans, if they believe that that's real. So, there's certainly other information that they could have had about the jurors as well as about the defendant's racial background. Again, there's a lot of stuff we now have learned about that the jurors should have had access to.

TAPPER: Let's listen to something else that the juror said about how Dunn described that loud rap music playing in the teen's car.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

INTERVIEWER: What about the testimony of his fiancee, Rhonda Rouer, about what he thought about the music they were playing?

VALERIE: That was a big deal for me because he testified he wouldn't say or use the words "thug," but he said he would use the words "rap crap". However, in his interview, he did say "thug" a few times.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Thug. That's a word that is resonant with a lot of African- Americans, and especially -- and apparently, that juror as well.

BUTLER: Of course. Richard Sherman, the football player, said a few weeks ago, "thug" is the new N-word. So, when you have this combustible combination of loud rap music, of black teenagers, and a fight, a lot of people are going to think it's the fault of the black teenager who was the victim here.

This is an area where the law is kind of following the science. What science tells us is we have all this unconscious knowledge or feelings about race we're not aware of so it wasn't that the jurors or the prosecutions were racists, it's just they have these feelings where they associate often black men with violence. They're scared of them. They think that they're dangerous.

TAPPER: Finally, what many people don't understand is how the jury reached a guilty verdict on the attempted murder charges and not the murder charge. Here's what juror four had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

INTERVIEWER: How could you all convict Michael Dunn of attempting to kill the other teenagers in the car but not convicting him of killing a 17-year-old?

VALERIE: That is pretty much my sole purpose for being here, because reading the social media and people looking at it as like we didn't do a justice or a service, we had a lot of discussion on him getting out of the car and the threat has now gone, and your intent is yet to still go ahead and pursue this vehicle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Paul, do you think that the stand your ground part of the jury instructions -- jury instructions in Florida have changed demonstrably from five years ago to today. Do you think that part makes it confusing for jurors to understand when self-defense is permissible and when it's not?

BUTLER: Absolutely. So what's in stand your ground does is send this message that you shoot first, think later, and the law has got your back. So, it's this kind of macho fantasy that real men don't run away from the -- from a fight. And so, the jurors were understandably confused about what Mr. Dunn's obligation was.

Did he -- should he have gotten in the car and driven away? Absolutely. But he didn't. And again, now we have another dead black teenager.

TAPPER: Professor Paul Butler, thank you so much. We appreciate your time.

Coming up, dramatic new video, as a 500-pound bomb explodes steps from American troops. Now, the U.S. Air Force is admitting we dropped the bomb. How did that happen? That's next.

Plus, be careful what you say. Why one big Republican's own big praise of Hillary Clinton might come back to haunt him, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

New video has surfaced showing a dangerously close call for soldiers at a U.S. Army infantry outpost in Afghanistan, one who had a bomb dropped on them by the American Air Force. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

(EXPLOSION)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the (EXPLETIVE DELETED)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) exploded, bro.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Exploded indeed, bro.

Miraculously, no one was hurt in the bombing, thankfully. This happened back in 2012, but the video was just posted on a Web site for military veterans. There have been two investigations into how this could have happened.

Apparently, the aircrew was mistakenly given the infantry's GPS coordinates as the location for their Taliban target. It was ruled an accident, so no was punished.

Also in world, disturbing new from aboard the Maersk Alabama. Two former Navy SEALs working as security officers have been found dead in the cabin of the ship that was made famous after being attacked by Somali pirates in 2009. It was the story used as the basis for the movie "Captain Phillips. The two Americans, Jeffrey Reynolds and Mark Kennedy, were both 44 years old. Their families have been notified and an investigation is under way.

But the police not yet give a cause of death. The ship was docked at the island of Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, about a thousand miles from Somalia.

Coming up next, weeks after Governor Christie's bridgegate controversy, does another potential Republican presidential contender have his own scandal to worry about?

And later, she made just as many headlines for her looks as she did on the track. Now, Lolo Jones is taking heat again from another U.S. Olympian, who says she doesn't even deserve to be in Sochi.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)