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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Rancher Branded A Racist; RT Editor-In-Chief: "Ukraine RIP"; Chicago's Top Cop: Murder Rate Is Down

Aired April 24, 2014 - 16:30   ET

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


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So this is the kind of thing that just spreads like wildfire and it is very hard for politicians in the Republican Party who don't want to go down this road to stay away from it.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Brian -- yes, go ahead, Brian.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: By the way, the media has already moved on. We're seeing lots of coverage now of a land grab possibly in Texas instead. So they will quickly move on to this broader topic of government overreach and move away on from Bundy.

TAPPER: Well, that's what I wanted to ask what is the next move for conservative media who had been making this a big case, making this a big story, an example of big government violating the rights of the little guy just to move on or don't you think they also have to do what Sean Hannity did and just completely condemn the statements.

STELTER: Maybe no surprise, but Fox News has barely talked about the story today, but we did see Sean Hannity on his radio show this afternoon distance himself. We also saw Greta Van Susteren, another Fox News anchor who covered it quite intensely right away this morning on her blog say that she completely disagrees with his comments. We'll see a little more of that, but then the narrative will quickly move, as it already has in some way to this broader issue of government over reach, government land grabs. They can find other cases to focus on and pretty much forget about Clive Bundy.

BASH: And just on that, Sean Hannity, I was listening to his radio show just before coming on, he did not move off of this topic of land grabs. He was very clear in saying he actually said people from "The New York Times," people from the liberal media, I know you're listening to see what I'm going to say about Clive Bundy. I'm going to talk about that, but then I'm going to continue to talk about this issue and he did continue to do that after he strongly condemned the racist comments.

TAPPE: Dana Bash and Brian Stelter, thank you so much.

When we come back, President Obama taking in the sites, having a little fun on his visit to Japan, but with potential war looming in Ukraine, is his trip a little too much pomp and not enough circumstance? Stay with us. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In "World News," there is no way the U.S. is going to stand by while one country takes land from another. President Obama declared this on his trip overseas, but he wasn't talking about Russia snatching Crimea from Ukraine. He was reassuring the Japanese that the U.S. will not allow China to seize disputed territory, the Senkaku Islands, from Japan's control.

Our own Jim Acosta asked the president whether he was backing himself into a corner during a news conference at the state guest house in Tokyo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: How does that draw another red line that you would have to enforce?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The treaty between the United States and Japan preceded my birth. So obviously this is not a red line that I'm drawing. It is the standard interpretation over multiple administrations of the terms of the alliance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: President Obama has long held plans to pivot his foreign policy focus to Asia and away from the morass in the Middle East and the old world precepts of Europe. That's what this trip is about. Of course, no tour of Asia is complete without the trip to the uncanny valley. The president fielding a penalty kick from a robot while in Japan.

Some critics, such as "Washington Post" columnist, Dana Milbank, is taking issues with these optics. Milbank writes in today's "Post," the photo-op nature of the trip risk contributing to a perception that Obama's Asian policy and his foreign policy in general is similarly itinerant. He is seeing the sights getting some good pics and moving along, more tourist than architect of world affairs.

While the president is in Asia for a whole week, this is what Ukraine looks like now. A road block in flames. Ukrainian forces killing five militants and clashes at pro-Russia's strong hold while Russia announces yet another round of military exercises. This video was captured near Ukraine's border, convoy of Russian military vehicles on the move.

Ukraine has issued a 48-hour deadline for Russia to explain the purpose of these new drills or else, well, or else isn't really clear. The Ukrainian crisis did pull some focus away from his president's Asia trip during his news conference in Japan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: We continue to see militias and armed men taking over buildings, harassing folks who are disagreeing with them and destabilizing the region and we haven't seen Russia step up and discourage that. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So is this trip really all sushi and no substance, and what does that mean for the rest of the president's foreign policy? Let's bring in Julia Ioffe who is a senior editor at the "New Republic" and Jeffrey Goldberg, a columnist for "Bloomberg." Jeff, I'll start with this very simple question, does Milbank have a point? This trip at this time, does it make sense?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, "BLOOMBERG NEWS": I would differ a little bit on him with this question. One of the things that the president has to do and people have been saying for a while is go around the world and talk to our key allies and make them understand that we are still with them. Unfortunately, maybe the timing is not perfect, but South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, these are three of our most important allies in the world, not just in Asia.

And so they are happy that the president is coming to them and expressing his solidarity with them. They are all involved in conflicts where they need traditional American backing that they've come to expect and that we've come to give them. So I don't think it's a bad thing.

TAPPER: And Julia, we should note that Vice President Biden was in Kiev, Ukraine earlier this week as that pact, that cease fire, whatever it was, was spiralling out of control. Interesting tweet today from chief editor of "Russia Today," which has a very close relationship with Russia. They just -- this woman, Margarita tweeted "Ukraine R.I.P.," rest in peace. What could she possibly know that we don't?

JULIA IOFFE, SENIOR EDITOR, "NEW REPUBLIC": I think she knows what we've all seen happening. This is one of the reasons that it doesn't make sense for President Obama to postpone a trip to Asia because this was been a slow moving crisis for months and it shows no signs of speeding up or slowing down. There's an occasional skirmish here and there, but really this is just the Kremlin very slowly biting off chunk after chunk of Ukraine.

We've suspected for a long time that the end game of the Kremlin was to take eastern and southern Ukraine and they veiled it in all of this talk of humanitarian aid and protecting Russian speakers and a long-time Kremlin attack dog comes out and says exactly what they've been thinking or saying behind closed doors, which is that they don't see Ukraine, A, as a real country and, B, even if it is, half of it has been bitten off.

TAPPER: Twitter is the key to the soul. Richard, you were recently in Moldova, which is another former Soviet socialist republic that needs some reassurance at this point. Do you think President Obama should go there?

GOLDBERG: It's actually interesting. I mean, among the countries that he should be visiting, South Korea and Japan among them, he makes the tour of our friends in that part of the world that are in the Russian orbit of influence who are feeling left alone, who are feeling very vulnerable to Russia. Moldova is a small version of Ukraine. It's in Russia's sights. Russia already has a kind of breakaway republic inside Moldova that it controls. And I talked to the prime minister of Moldova last week and he was practically begging for a four-hour visit by President Obama, just to come to the central square --

TAPPER: Just a touch down?

GOLDBERG: Just a touchdown and tell them why looking west matters, why freedom and democracy matters. He said it would do wonders for his country. I have no reason to disbelieve him on that. Maybe he's overly hopeful, but there are people all over the world who believe in America and who believe that a friendship with America is good for them and it's good for freedom.

TAPPER: Julia, you want to weigh in here, I can tell.

IOFFE: You know, President Obama is showing up in Moldova doesn't mean all that much. If he showed up in the square of Donetsk doesn't mean that much. Everyone knows that the U.S. is not going to go to war with Russia over that.

TAPPER: Isn't that the point here, Jeff? That President Obama at this point and the American people are very war-weary and he's not willing to send one U.S. troop to defend Ukraine.

GOLDBERG: Obviously there's two different categories. A NATO relationship and those who are not. Obviously no one in this country wants to send to troops to countries like Ukraine and Moldova especially because -- and this is the problem for these countries, those countries haven't shown themselves to be very competent in defending themselves and we see that. And we are not going to work harder to defend them than they are working to defend themselves.

IOFFE: It's also going to take one soldier to defend against Russia. There have been other western countries that have gone to war with Russia thinking it would be a quick in and out one-month operation and their names are Germany and France and you can ask them how that worked out.

TAPPER: I don't believe very well. Julie Ioffe and Jeff Goldberg, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Coming up, he gave up his life in the U.S. to help children in Afghanistan, now this American pediatrician is dead and his alleged killer is supposed to be one of the good guys.

Plus, America's windy city earned the nickname Charaq because it was as dangerous as the war zone Iraq, but as Chicago's violent crime drops, the head of the Chicago PD tells me how they did it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Some tragic "World News," a pediatrician who just wanted to help children in need was among three Americans killed at a hospital in Afghanistan today allegedly by someone who was supposed to protect him. Police say an Afghan guard opened fire just outside the gates. Dr. Jerry Uminos was killed along with a father and son who were visiting the facility. The guard shot himself but survived. Dr. Uminos worked in inner city Chicago before moving to Afghanistan in 2005. He said he felt called to go there to treat children and help train medical personnel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. BRUCE ROWELL, LAWNSDALE CHRISTIAN HEALTH CENTER: This loss is a great loss for his family, for those of us that he worked with as well as for the people of Afghanistan. He was a loving and caring physician who served his patients with the outmost of respect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Today's attack comes just weeks after an "Associated Press" photo journalist was killed in the eastern province of Kost and it's a reminder of the threat against Americans and others posed by Afghan security forces themselves. The so-called green on blue attacks are typically carried out against coalition troops. Back in February, two U.S. Special Forces were killed by men wearing Afghan National Army uniforms.

Turning to our "Buried Lead" today, when it comes to stemming the tides of genocide, the United States has a checkered past. Candidate Barack Obama promised he would change that promising in 2008, for instance, that he would use the "g" word when he talked about the slaughter of nearly 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman empire a century ago even if U.S. ally Turkey objected.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: There was a genocide that took place against the Armenian people and it's a situation where we've seen a constant denial on the part of the Turkish government that this occurred.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Obama aide and current United National Ambassador Samantha Power wrote a powerful book about the refusal of the U.S. to stop genocide around the world. She said in a campaign video what President Obama's boldness signified.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMANTHA POWER, AUTHOR, "A PROBLEM FROM HELL": He's willing as president to commemorate it and certainly to call a spade a spade and to speak truth about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Today, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day for the sixth-time in a row, President Obama deferred to Turkey and refused to use the word he promised to use. Though he noted, quote, "I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915 and my view has not changed." President Obama called the Armenian genocide undeniable to the Armenian-American community. Apparently, it is quite deniable.

Wolf Blitzer is now here with a preview of "THE SITUATION ROOM." Wolf, Ukraine issued a 48-hour deadline for Russia to clearly explain its military drills. You're talking to a key member of Ukraine's government to get its response.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": He's here right now. The deputy foreign minister is meeting with top U.S. officials. We'll get the official response. We have Tony Blair on as well, the former British prime minister. He's got strong views not only about Ukraine, but what is going on as far as Muslim extremism around the world. Some powerful words generating some pretty serious reaction back in Britain as well. So we have a lot coming up at the top of the hour.

TAPPER: Sounds great. "THE SITUATION ROOM" at the top of the hour. Wolf Blitzer.

When we come back, its streets are some of the most violent in America. But in recent months, Chicago's crime rate has dropped significantly. The head of the Chicago PD tells me why, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The National Lead, it's one of America's greatest cities and one of its most violent. Over the past few weeks, CNN has tried to delve deeper into the problems plaguing inner city Chicago and what is being done to solve them in the eight- part series "Chicagoland." We catch up with a high school principal who has been trying to track down a young student who disappeared after graduation, frankly, because he feared for his life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think about going away to college or a trade school?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would love going away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Meet up with me. You know how I am. I don't want to be hearing that something bad happened to you. I don't want to be going to your funeral.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That young man saga is a reality for many of Chicago's youth. While city leaders and the police department have been stepping up their efforts to curb crime, they admit it's a problem they cannot tackle on their own.

Joining me now is Chicago's Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy. Thanks so much for being here. I really appreciate it. According to your department's latest crime statistic, Chicago's crime rate is down significantly from a year ago. In fact, it's the lowest that it has been since 1965. What has happened to stem some of the violence? GARY MCCARTHY, CHICAGO POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: Well, Jake, we spend a lot of time focusing our resources on the active conflicts that we have generally on the south and west side. It's generally gang- related violence and we've got so many strategies and tactics that we use, but at the end of the day, we're running this department more like a business perhaps more than other departments in the country.

When I speak to business people, they ask what are we doing right? I tell them, we're pushing down the resources, we're pushing down the authority and accountability to the right level and putting people in those seats and holding them accountable for what is happening. Our commanders and men and women of this department are doing an exceptional job.

TAPPER: I want to get your reaction to a recent Chicago magazine report, which essentially accuses the Chicago Police Department of reclassifying homicides in a way to skew the numbers, to make it look as though violent crime is dropping. What is your reaction to that story?

MCCARTHY: It's nonsense. It's absolute nonsense. We wrote a 26.12 page response to that magazine article, which has been completely dismissed by the editor-in-chief and just probably the most significant, easiest thing I could point out is that there is all anonymous sources in there and somebody says that I changed the policy on how we record murders that occur on the highways and in the city of Chicago. And it's patently false.

I can show you the policy change that was created in 1985 when I was a police officer of New York City. So that just really speaks to the credibility of it. I'm dismissing it. I hope everybody else dismisses it because I'm confident that we're going to stand up to any scrutiny. Ultimately, we have a national standard that every police department in the country uses and it's not malleable. We comply with it.

TAPPER: Let's talk about your participation in the CNN series "Chicagoland." Do you think the series has helped expose some of the problems that contribute to the gun violence in Chicago?

MCCARTHY: Yes. But I just want to point out, it's not just the proliferation of gun violence in Chicago. It's the same issue in Detroit. It's the same issue in Philadelphia. It's the same issue in any urban center across this country. It's called comfort for people when we have a week like we had last week where there was a lot of gun violence and it's a reminder of something that we say all the time. This is progress, not success.

TAPPER: Chicago Police Department Superintendent Gary McCarthy, thank you so much.

MCCARTHY: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: If you want to read more about the article and check out the inspector general's audit, go to cnn.com/thelead. The series' finale is tonight at 10 p.m. Easter right here on CNN. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He is next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Mr. Blitzer.