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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Primary Day in North Carolina; Lewinsky Back in the Spotlight; More Flooding, Wildfires And Drought; Famous Hotel Boycotted Over Sharia Law

Aired May 6, 2014 - 16:30   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, Hillary Clinton opening up about a painful chapter on her husband's presidency on the same day that a little lady named Monica Lewinsky is coming out to talk about her affair with Mrs. Clinton's husband.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Time for the politics lead.

We're still six months out from Election Day, but in many ways, the political season and the battle for control of the Senate starts today in North Carolina, where it's primary day and voters are heading to the polls to decide the most important race that perhaps you've never heard of.

Three main challengers are vying for a chance to knock off incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan. The Republican establishment has bet big on State House Speaker Thom Tillis, marquee names, such as Jeb Bush, Mitch McConnell and, as of yesterday, Mitt Romney, they are in that candidate's corner. The main goal: to avoid a runoff that would drag out the primary season for another two months, a minimum.

But not so fast. The Republican's feisty grassroots wings are making this almost as nasty as Duke/UNC rivalry.

Let's bring CNN national political reporter, Peter Hamby, who's in Charlotte.

Peter, Tillis needs 40 percent to avoid a runoff. But what are you hearing on the ground right now? Can he do it?

PETER HAMBY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, if you talk to people down here a few weeks ago, Jake, most people would have said there was definitely going to be a runoff. But there's been lots of outside spending in this race. There's over $2 million from outside groups propping up Thom Tillis, the statehouse speaker, the front- runner, as you mentioned, and people are starting to think down there that Tillis will crack that 40 percent magic number.

I talked to one old pro today in Raleigh who pegged it at 47 percent. That was his prediction. I don't think it's going to be that high but Tillis has been steadily creeping up. No one is going to take that to the bank, that he's definitely going to hit 40 percent. That's sort of the consensus now that he will break that number and avoid a runoff and if he doesn't, as you mentioned, this is going to go to a runoff in mid-July, a 2 1/2-month runoff, which could be a really troublesome thing if it was, you know, just an establishment candidate versus, as you mentioned, one of these sort of grassroots insurgency could catch fire in a low turnout summer primary, Jake.

TAPPER: And, of course, the precedent here is when Ted Cruz kept an establishment candidate from winning his primary the way that the Republican Party is facing here with Tea Party challengers and if he didn't get the Dewhurst, the lieutenant governor of Texas, he didn't fend off a second race and ultimately Ted Cruz who has become a pain in the butt for national Republicans, he went on to win.

HAMBY: Yes, that's right. It's interesting, Jake. The funny thing is, is that a lot of primaries, the national press has made this a traditional establishment versus Tea Party narrative for the Cruz- Dewhurst race is a good analyst a Senate race sort of, but it's a little bit limited for two reasons.

One, Thom Tillis, as statehouse speaker, is actually very conservative, unlike David Dewhurst, who was conservative, but, you know, that was Texas and he had been in the party establishment for a long time. Tillis came in as state speaker in really pushed through a lot of landmark conservative legislation, lots of budget cuts, a strict voter ID law.

And then the other thing side here is that the two candidates were challenging him, Greg Brannon and Mark Harris, among others, aren't that strong. They haven't raised a lot of money. Some of the big conservative outside groups like the Club for Growth, the Senate Conservatives Fund normally haven't endorsed in this primary.

So, look, if it does get to a runoff, anything can happen. As I said, a low turnout midsummer primary could be tough for anyone perceived as an establishment candidate. But Tillis is pretty conservative and he does have lots of money from outside groups propping him up -- Jake.

TAPPER: Peter Hamby in the beautiful state of North Carolina -- thank you so much.

Let's bring in our political panel to dissect all this and more. CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and national political correspondent for "The New York Times", Jonathan Martin.

J-Mart, you know what I love about this race is that Kay Hagan, the Democrat incumbent senator, she's meddling in the (AUDIO GAP), sending flyers to potential Republican voters about Thom Tillis. What is she saying?

JONATHAN MARTIN, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, she's talking about his views on the Affordable Care Act and is noting of the fact that he has not always been totally full-throated, Jake, in his opposition --

TAPPER: Trying to paint him as a liberal? MARTIN: Yes, that's exactly right, a little bit of political jujitsu there, trying to at least bloody him up and trying to prevent him from getting that 40 percent, that magic number at the primary there today, as Peter mentioned during her speech, not sure that's going to happen.

But you're seeing in North Carolina, what you saw in Missouri two years ago where Democrats went in late, Jake, and they tried to boost Todd Akin, they did that, they got their candidate. And what happened? The rest is history.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: She wants a runoff, right?

MARTIN: Of course. Of course.

BORGER: You know, she would like a runoff and so they're --

MARTIN: Kay Hagan is vulnerable -- is vulnerable --

BORGER: Peddling around in the Republican primary.

MARTIN: -- as much as --

BORGER: She's one of the most vulnerable, as much as -- yes, almost any other incumbent.

We had a poll in our paper last month. Her approval numbers were 44/44, meaning as many folks disapproved as approved. In that state, what is so key, Jake, is the fact that turnout drops off quite a bit between presidential years and off years, a big problem for her.

TAPPER: And, obviously, we can't understate this. The fate of the control of the Senate really does hang in the balance.

BORGER: Six seats.

TAPPER: And just six seats, and Kay Hagan, she loses and you have a couple other states and, all of a sudden, Obama thinks he has gridlock now, wait.

BORGER: And then, that's why no surprise that you've got the Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads spending millions of dollars in this particular race because they know what's at stake, and if you look back to -- you know, the last Senate race, they're saying no, they believe that they lost about a half dozen Senate races that they did not need to lose. So, now, the establishment strikes back here --

TAPPER: They're really pushing.

BORGER: -- and they are pushing. They don't want that to happen.

TAPPER: And this primary is almost like a proxy for the presidential race.

MARTIN: Yes.

BORGER: Yes.

TAPPER: You have establishment folks like Mitt Romney backing one candidate, Rand Paul backing another, Mike Huckabee backing another.

Now, we have some new CNN/ORC polling out this morning, Gloria, showing Jeb Bush and Rand Paul tied among potential Republican presidential hopefuls, 13 percent support, all five candidates you see there are within the polls, you got Paul Ryan, Huckabee, and Chris Christie.

So, Gloria, you've done some reporting on this. What are Republicans saying about Jeb's poll number?

BORGER: OK. So, you talk to Republican pollsters. They all go, oh, it's early, Gloria, and then, of course, they are looking into the internal of these polls trying to figure out what it really means. What it does mean to everyone is, look, this race is a jump ball. There's nobody that kind of comes out at you and says, oh, he's the prohibited favorite.

And also, it's not going to discourage anybody from running. If you're Rick Santorum and you're at 2 percent, you say, you know what, I was in worse shape last time and I almost won and if you're Chris Christie and you had all the problems, you look at it and you said, wait a minute, I'm only -- I'm only four points back and look at what has happened to me here.

So, you know, this race, you know, early on with Mitt Romney, he was a prohibited favorite. We do not have that.

TAPPER: It's completely jump ball.

And, Jonathan, one of the things that these guys do to try to help them get out in front is to do favors and get out there. And, Jennifer Jacobs from "The Des Moines Register", nice little scoop this afternoon, guess who is going to be doing the fund-raiser for the Republican governor of Iowa, early caucus state, none other than Jeb Bush.

MARTIN: I'm shocked --

BORGER: Shocked.

MARTIN: -- that that would happen.

I'm sure it's all about the good Governor Branstad's re-election there in Iowa.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Absolutely.

TAPPER: He cares about (INAUDIBLE).

MARTIN: Look, I tend to sympathize with the pollsters who kind of say that, well, it's early yet. But there is some importance to these numbers. When you've got consultants and donors who are going at this like Jeb Bush and say, you've got to do it, you've got to do it, it's easier for them to make that case and like, hold up polling saying, you're winning big or, look, you're poised to do really, really well. Look at your numbers here among X group or Y group.

And when you can't say that, when they're one stop here, that case is a little bit harder.

BORGER: And, by the way, speaking of Jeb Bush, not only is he out raising money for Terry Branstad, but he didn't notice that kind of already raised money for Nikki Haley, another early primary state, South Carolina.

TAPPER: Second primary.

BORGER: So, choosing those states wisely.

TAPPER: So, let's also talk about in the same CNN poll, Democrats still are overwhelmingly behind the prospective Hillary Clinton presidential bid, 64 percent say the former secretary of state would be their choice for the Democratic nominee. It's down from January where it was at 70 percent, but 64 percent. I think any candidate --

MARTIN: What's happened to her, Jake?

TAPPER: But I should say, there's also some news from her past, Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy has an effect of creating an "I love the '90s" feel on cable news, and Monica Lewinsky today out with a "Vanity Fair" story that was tease saying that she has time to bury the blue dress, saying all sorts of things about the affair and what she went through.

Do you think this hurts Hillary Clinton's candidacy at all?

BORGER: No.

TAPPER: Not at all?

BORGER: I don't think it has any impact on Hillary Clinton's candidacy, particularly if she's getting out younger voters who don't really care about what happened in the '90s. I think what Monica Lewinsky did come out and say is that she did not see Bill Clinton has a sexual predator, which is what Rand Paul has called Bill Clinton. She said it was a consensual affair. Was it inappropriate? Absolutely. But she made that case.

So, in a way, it could help, if anything at all.

TAPPER: What do you make of it all?

MARTIN: It's May of 2014. So, it's going to jog memories about the 1990s for, what, a couple of days maybe at the most but I think we'll be on to the next thing here fairly soon.

But, Look, I think the Clinton folks had to know that Monica Lewinsky at some point -- TAPPER: Was going to come back.

MARTIN: -- was going to come back up.

TAPPER: Yes.

MARTIN: And better to have her -- if the Clinton folks would rather have her now than say right before November 2016.

BORGER: By the way, I give Monica Lewinsky credit for this piece and putting this out there, and she's kind of been in hiding. And she turned 40 and good for her.

TAPPER: Jonathan Martin and Gloria Borger, thank you so much.

Coming up, get used to more floods and fires and droughts -- a staggering apocalyptic report on a far reaching impact of climate change right here in the United States. Are you living in the danger zone?

Plus, Hollywood heavyweights taking a stand against an L.A. institution. Why Jay Leno and Ellen DeGeneres are telling fans they will no longer step foot in the Beverly Hills Hotel.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Time for our "National Lead." The White House is out in full force today on one of President Obama's big second-term priorities, recognizing the effects of climate change. This morning, the White House pushed out the third U.S. national climate assessment put together by 300 experts.

It's over 800 pages and it might scare the nitrites out of you, floods, hurricanes, extreme heat, wildfire, sounds like a passage out of the bible. Tom Foreman is in the virtual studio with more. Tom, this is very much pushing immediate effects writing that climate change is happening now. How do they explain that?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what they are doing, Jake, is exactly that trying to make this not a problem of the future, but a problem of today and even though it's a global problem, they want to talk about it in terms of what does in our world and these are the effects that they are talking about.

Let's start with the northeast. We are about 64 million people live up here. Remember Superstorm Sandy and all of the damage that came from that? Think about all of the huge snowstorms that have swept through here in recent years. What they are saying in this report is that these extreme weather events, these extreme precipitation events are going to continue and a real target there will be infrastructure, roadways, railways, bridges, and electrical supplies.

Let's move down now and talk about the southeast. You see all of that coastal land out in there. Here is where rising seas would be one of the issues that we are talking about, at least the White House is talking about a great deal. They are saying that as this changes, these billion dollar weather events -- and let me bring in a map.

When I say a billion dollar weather event, I mean events that cause more than a billion dollars worth of damage. The redder the area, the more they have seen those types of events and you can see that the southeast gets an awful lot of that. So if that continues at a higher level, as they predict, in places like New Orleans, Tampa, Charleston really get hammered.

The Midwest, all about agriculture out there. This may produce a longer growing season, but also a more unpredictable one where they may have longer droughts and earlier frost. So overall the cost of food for all of us can go up and the availability of food can be changed. Move out of the great plains, water is always an issue there, Jake.

The water issue becomes even worse and becomes more unpredictable. If you look at places like the southwest down around Southern California, Arizona, places like that, you're talking about a greater instance of wildfires as things dry out and become less favorable for growing conditions and sort of the same thing happens in the northwest.

Because then you start talking about insect infestation, things that kill vast swaths of forest. Bottom line, Jake, all across the country no matter where you live, there's something in this report for you.

TAPPER: Let's look at the future, Tom, the year 2100, what is the report saying will happen if we do something or if we do nothing?

FOREMAN: The report is saying, if we do something, the effect continues because it's not all manmade. They are not saying that. They are saying there are other effects. If we do nothing, they are still saying you get a 4 to 5 degree increase in temperature and that is if we do something. If we do something, that is what you get. But if you do nothing, they are saying it's much worse, 8 to 9 degrees. It's part science, part politics, Jake, but very pointed.

TAPPER: Tom Foreman, thanks. Wolf Blitzer is here with the preview of "THE SITUATION ROOM." Wolf, you were the White House correspondent during the Clinton years?

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": I was the senior --

TAPPER: The senior White House correspondent, I'm sorry. Sorry you didn't make chief. You were there when the Monica Lewinsky scandal happened. Kind of random this piece coming out in "Vanity Fair." Were you surprised at all?

BLITZER: Yes, I was pretty surprised because Monica Lewinsky was pretty honest. I'm sure she's gone through very, very difficult years. It's been a decade basically since we've heard from her. She opens up and tries to do something that was very damaging to her and make something positive out of it and try to tell folks out there, you can go through public humiliation on social media and elsewhere.

Remember Drudge was the first one reported about her affair with the president. But if you work hard, maybe she can inspire others to come out of this and do something positive. You spoke about it. We're going to speak about it in "THE SITUATION ROOM" as well.

TAPPER: Coming up in 8 minutes. Wolf Blitzer, thank you so much.

Coming up in our "Pop Culture Lead," if these walls could talk, Page 6 would be doing cartwheels. But now some in Hollywood are turning against the famed Beverly Hills Hotel. We'll tell you why, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back. The "Pop Culture Lead," it's nicknamed the pink palace. It's where stars have flocked since Beverly Hills was nothing but lima bean fields. Elizabeth Taylor honeymooned in the bungalows out back six different times. Over the last 100 years, everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Brad Pitt could be spotted at the Beverly Hills Hotel, but as our Ted Rowlands reports the sultan who owns it has managed to alienate his famous clientele so much that Hollywood is taking its after parties and coke binges elsewhere thank you very much.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Tony Beverly Hills Hotel for decades a haven for Hollywood's elite. Now some stars are rushing for the exits.

JAY LENO, FORMER "TONIGHT SHOW" HOST": I know a number of people are canceling events at the hotel and it's all economic.

ROWLANDS: Jay Leno, his wife, and actress, Francis Fisher, were among those who took part in a protest across from the landmark hotel on Monday protesting not the hotel per se, but its ownership, an investment group controlled by the sultan of Brunei. They want people to be aware of the new Sharia laws being implemented in Brunei, a Muslim majority country in Southeast Asia. The sultan has praised the laws, which provide for the stoning of anyone who commits adultery or homosexuality.

LENO: It's not a political issue. This is not something that's debatable. It's people being stoned to death. Hello?

ROWLANDS: Ellen Degeneres and Richard Branson have also announced they won't patronize the hotel or other properties in the Dorchester group of luxury hotels. The talk show host tweeted I won't be visiting the Hotel Bel-Air or the Beverly Hills Hotel until this is resolved.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The actions that they are taking are unfounded.

ROWLANDS: But Christopher Cowdray, CEO of the Dorchester Collection says celebrities and groups shunning the company's hotel put their focus in the wrong place.

CHRISTOPHER COWDRAY, CEO, DORCHESTER COLLECTION: It's going to hurt our employees and this has nothing to do with them whatsoever. It's not their fight.

ROWLANDS: He says celebrities wanting to influence politics in Brunei would be better off lobbying the U.S. State Department to take action, in fact at a Monday briefing, State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf addressed development in Brunei.

MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESWOMAN: Let me be very clear, we have concerns.

ROWLANDS: Harf was asked whether U.S. diplomats ever stay at Dorchester Collection hotels while on business.

HARF: I can check. I don't know the answer.

ROWLANDS: Government officials in Beverly Hills are taking a stand. Mayor Lili Bosse is introducing a resolution before the city council that would urge the sultan to divest his interest at the hotel the bears the city's name.

MAYOR LILI BOSSE, BEVERLY HILLS: We have a history of standing strong against injustice.

ROWLANDS: The legendary property has been around for over 100 years, even longer than Beverly Hills itself.

BOSSE: The resolution is not a call for a boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel, but it's a focus on the government and their laws and not a statement about the hotel.

ROWLANDS: Ted Rowlands, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: That's it for THE LEAD.

I am Jake Tapper.

I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM -- Mr. Blitzer.