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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

MERS Outbreak?; Rove Takes Shot at Hillary's Health; "She Doesn't Have Brain Damage"; Stocks Surge to Another Record

Aired May 13, 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: And now this warning from the government: The plane you're about to board could be a giant Petri dish for a deadly infection with no vaccine.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The national lead. It kills 30 percent of the people infected and now it is here on U.S. soil with two confirmed cases, fresh fears today that Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, is spreading.

The politics lead. Karl Rove, the man liberals still cast as the boogeyman under the bed, catching a lot of heat for something he may or may not have said about Hillary Clinton's brain. If she wants to be president, will she have to share more about her health? Will she have to withstand more attacks like this?

And the buried lead. As first lady, she wrote about fears of marrying a skirt-chaser. I'm not talking about Hillary Clinton. I'm talking about Jackie Kennedy, never-before-scene letters putting into the words the private thoughts she never shared with the public.

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

We will begin with breaking news in the national lead.

Fever, cough, sore throat, you might think you have come down with the flu, by then it could be too late. It's called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS for short. Eleven days ago, the first U.S. case appeared in Indiana. Two days ago, a second case was confirmed in Orlando, Florida. And now today, two health care workers who came in contact with the Florida patient have started showing flu- like symptoms themselves. Both were placed in quarantine. One is still there. The other was sent home.

They are not the only ones who may have been exposed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTONIO CRESPO, DR. P. PHILLIPS HOSPITAL: A total of five team members were identified to be exposed in Orlando Regional Medical Center. In our hospital, in Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, we identified a total of 15 team members that were exposed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: All of those individuals are being tested. We are now awaiting the results.

Both of the two confirmed cases involve people who recently traveled to Saudi Arabia, then unwittingly flew infected on planes into the United States.

That's why, if you are flying, you will soon seen flyers that the TSA says it will post at checkpoints at the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's a health advisory that asks if you're going to the Arabian Peninsula, and then warns you about this -- quote -- "new disease called MERS."

Our Athena Jones is standing by right now at Dulles International Airport.

Athena, are these flyers up yet?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, they're not up at Dulles, but I'm told they are being put up over the course of this day and tomorrow. So, they're in the process of being put up.

Here's the health advisory the CDC has put out. The TSA says they're going to be putting them up at checkpoints at 21 airports across the country, not just here at Dulles, but also major airports on the East Coast, in the center of the country and out in California. These are airports that see a loot of international travelers.

And, of course, individual airports may also post these signs at various places around the airport. This is part of the CDC's level two alert. That's higher than a watch, technically, but lower than a warning, a level three warning, which would mean that you should avoid all nonessential travel.

A level two alert means that people shouldn't change their travel plans, but they should practice what the CDC calls enhanced precautions. And that's basically looking after their health and following what is on this sign to avoid getting sick.

Wash your hands often, avoid touching your face, avoid contact with sick people, watch out for symptoms like the one you mentioned, fever, cough, shortness of breath. And if you do get sick within 14 days of having traveled to the Arabian Peninsula, contact a doctor and let that doctor know where you traveled.

And one thing I should mention here is that the CDC has not issued any sort of formal travel restrictions, but they do recommend that if you get sick, stay home from work, delay any future travel, and they advise that if you are sick while traveling, it's possible you may be denied boarding at any stage along your journey -- Jake.

TAPPER: Athena Jones at Dulles Airport, thank you so much.

The CDC is trying to reassure travelers that the risk of MERS is low for them, but concerns over containing the virus have reached the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The CDC is monitoring this very closely. It's something that is of the nature -- is of a nature that would be briefed to the president and has been briefed to the president, and our team is watching it very closely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, is standing by live at the White House.

Joe, how big is the level of concern over MERS in the Obama administration?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I think you really hit it there, Jake.

The important thing to note is the concern about MERS has now reached the highest levels of the government. This has been on the front burner for quite some time, many federal agencies, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Security Council, but now at the point where the president himself is getting briefed.

Despite a low number of cases in the United States, a handful of people in protective isolation, this is being seen as a homeland security matter with lots of updates across the administration, according to a senior federal official. It's because the threat has crossed the border. It's being carried here by plane from Saudi Arabia, also because the number of cases abroad has simply increased so dramatically.

Lisa Monaco, the assistant to the president for historical and counterterrorism in the White House, would be the person taking the lead on that, also the person actually doing the briefing for the president of the United States. The press Secretary, Jay Carney, taking a question here today at the briefing, saying the CDC, of course, is taking all of this very seriously. We do know they are monitoring it very carefully, and that's about it, Jake.

TAPPER: Joe Johns at the White House, thank you so much.

Here is what we know about the two confirmed cases of MERS in the U.S. The first confirmed case involving a person we're going to call patient X was discovered in Indiana on May 2. Health officials say patient X is an American health care worker who had recently traveled from Saudi Arabia to Indiana to see family. Patient X has been released and is considered fully recovered.

The second confirmed case involving whom we're going to call patient Y was discovered on Sunday, this person also a health care worker, though not a U.S. citizen, who also recently traveled from Saudi Arabia to the U.S.. Patient Y is still being treated.

I want to bring in Dr. Anne Schuchat. She's the director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Dr. Schuchat, good to see you again.

The CDC has stressed that MERS is a low risk, low risk for Americans, but you are concerned enough to post warnings in airports. Explain.

REAR ADM. DR. ANNE SCHUCHAT, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: Whenever we see a new virus like this that is capable of causing severe illness and death, we take it seriously.

And we have been preparing here at the CDC for the past two years, since this virus emerged, to be ready if the virus was imported. That preparation paid off when we did see the first importation to Indiana, and now the second to Florida.

We do take it seriously. We know some things about this new virus. We know that it is not easily spread person-to-person. The spread that has been seen so far has generally been with extremely close contacts in the household or in the health care environment. And that's why we have seen focusing on contact tracing among health care workers and households.

It's really out of an abundance of caution that we have been contacting people who were on the same flights as the two patients who traveled in with the virus.

We don't know yet that this virus can be spread in that kind of context, but early on in an investigation like this, we like to gather as much information as we can quickly, so that we can improve or recommendations going forward.

So right now, we have been working to contact everybody who was on flights with the patient who traveled into Florida. That contact work is ongoing right now. And I would imagine over the days ahead, we will learn more whether there was any transmission at all.

Based on everything that I know so far, I'm not expecting it. But I think it is likely that there will be more importations. And because of that, we're really working closely with the state and local health departments.

TAPPER: Dr. Schuchat, just to play devil's advocate -- advocate for a second, there have been two confirmed cases in the U.S. One of those people is apparently cured. The other person is being treated.

More people will die today in car accidents, from guns, from slipping in a bathtub, from obesity. Explain to me why these drastic measures -- drastic is probably overstating the case -- why these measures of putting up warnings in airports, when, really, the risk of fatality, as you explained, it's very difficult to get MERS, is so low.

SCHUCHAT: We think it's really critical to avoid overreacting in the community, but also avoid under-reacting in the health care environment.

The reason for the signage is so that we can promptly identify potential cases, so that they can be separated from other people. What we saw in the SARS virus, which was somewhat like this, and what we have seen so far in certain episodes of the MERS coronavirus in the Arabian Peninsula is outbreaks in the hospital environment.

Those outbreaks can get larger and larger if you don't know who is infected and who isn't. So, we think it's important to make sure that people traveling are aware of this new virus and are aware to tell their doctors about their travel history so that they can promptly be diagnosed. The sooner we know about a problem, the sooner we can control the exposure.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Really an educational program to a degree.

SCHUCHAT: Absolutely. Absolutely.

TAPPER: Dr. Anne Schuchat, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Coming up on THE LEAD: A Clinton nemesis takes a shot at Hillary's health, hinting that she maybe has a brain injury because of the glasses she was wearing in January 2013. How is Clinton responding?

Plus, Donald Sterling says he -- quote -- "doesn't do anything" for African-Americans. Now Magic Johnson is responding. He just spoke with Anderson Cooper. And we will bring you some of that exclusive interview ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

The politics lead now. After decades in Washington, Hillary Clinton, whatever you think of her, she has weathered some memorable and personal attacks and insinuations. Her rivals have called her everything from cold to a commie to a murderer.

Now, with rumors of her possible presidential candidacy at a fever pitch, here comes some new ones, brand-new ones. At a business group's private conference at a resort hotel south of Los Angeles last Thursday, one of the Republican Party's most lauded strategists, well, he upped the ante by suggesting, you know, just -- just asking the question, just asking the question if she may have suffered a traumatic brain injury after a fall back in 2012.

Brianna Keilar is here with more -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Rove reportedly said this last week, right, but this just broke on the gossip page of "The New York Post" today. And today, Rove was doing cleanup, as Hillary Clinton's team fired back.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): Karl Rove backpedaling but not apologizing for his reported suggestion that Hillary Clinton may have suffered brain damage in late 2012.

KARL ROVE, GOP STRATEGIST: I didn't say she had brain damage. KEILAR: President Bush's former top aide, reviled by the left, raising new questions about Clinton's medical scare when the then secretary of state suffered a blood clot between her brain and skull.

ROVE: She had a serious episode, a serious health episode. This was a serious deal.

KEILAR: In off-camera comments reported by "The New York Post's" gossip column, Page 6, Rove said these glasses were for patients suffering from traumatic brain injuries and claimed Clinton spent 30 days in the hospital.

Clinton actually spent three days in the hospital to treat the clot caused by a fall while battling the flu. And those glasses --

DR. CHARLES PRESTIGIACOMO, RUTGERS NEW JERSEY MEDICAL SCHOOL: I think that the idea that you have specific glasses that are used for traumatic brain injury is not necessarily accurate. These glasses apparently seem to have helped her tremendously during that year, year and a half that she's been using them. The fact that she doesn't seem to be using them now means very suggestively that she's significantly improved from it and most likely recovered.

KEILAR: As Clinton seriously considers another round for president in 2016, her spokesman fired back at Rove and Republicans, calling his comments a way to insert smears about her health and age into the bloodstream of political debate because, quote, "They are scared of what she has achieved and what she has to offer. What he's doing is its own form of sickness but she is 100 percent, period. Time for them to move on to their next desperate attack."

In 2012, Clinton was not seen or heard from by the public for weeks as she recovered, but she emerged healthy, according to her team and doctors, and withstood harsh questioning three weeks later at a hearing in Benghazi.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: What difference at this point does it make?

KEILAR: At that time, former Bush administration officials were alleging she was faking her illness.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: And this is a diplomatic illness to beat the band.

KEILAR: As she left the State Department in 2013, Clinton spoke with CNN about her health.

CLINTON: I am lucky because I've been very healthy. I feel great. I've got, you know, enormous amounts of energy that have to be harnessed and focused. So I -- I'm very fortunate and I'm looking forward to this next chapter in my life.

KEILAR: Rove is holding firm saying Clinton needs to be upfront with any health problems should she run.

ROVE: This will be an issue in the 2016 race, whether she likes it or not.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Now, that may be where Rove is correct.

The question of Clinton's health and by extension her age isn't likely to disappear. She will be 69 on Election Day in 2016, years older than the crop of Republicans -- years older than most of the crop of Republicans, I should say, who may jump into the field.

TAPPER: That's interesting.

Brianna Keilar, thank you so much.

Insinuation is, of course, a delicate art here in Washington. So, was Rove really saying Clinton was actually brain damaged or just raising the question?

Let's bring in Stephanie Cutter and Newt Gingrich, hosts of CNN's "CROSSFIRE."

First, Stephanie, great to see you back from maternity leave.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, CNN'S "CROSSFIRE": Thank you. Yes.

TAPPER: I've seen your baby. He's beautiful. Congratulations.

CUTTER: Thank you.

TAPPER: Mr. Gingrich, good to see you as well.

Newt, let's talk about that, you've been victim of this at well. The clever insinuation, I'm just raising the question, Speaker Gingrich.

NEWT GINGRICH, CNN'S "CROSSFIRE": This was not clever and it wasn't insinuation. This was Karl Rove running headlong into a brick wall.

Hillary Clinton is going to have the same questions that Ronald Reagan had and she's going to answer them the same way Ronald Reagan did. You go out and you campaign and you give speeches and you answer questions. You know, if, in fact, you can do that, nobody is going to believe this stuff.

I think it is the worst kind of Republican consultant behavior to get into this kind of personal, you know, negative attack. Look, we're going to -- on "CROSSFIRE", we're going to debate lots of stuff about Hillary Clinton, but there are really good policy issues to debate and really performance issues at stake to debate. We don't need to get into this kind of stuff and I would urge every Republican -- don't touch it, don't get near it.

TAPPER: But, Stephanie, to play devil's advocate here, when she had her health scare, and it was a serious health scare, she hit her head, she got a concussion, she got a blood clot, she did appear with those glasses when she testified on Benghazi, and it wasn't just the conservatives talking about it, NBC News ran a story last year, "Hillary Clinton sports new lenses due to lingering issues from her concussion." She was wearing Fresnel prism lenses, special glasses that help bring images back into focus.

It's fair to ask questions about her health.

CUTTER: Is that what you think that Karl Rove was doing?

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: I'm asking a different question.

CUTTER: We know what Karl Rove -- I mean, Newt said it best. This is --

TAPPER: What was he trying to do?

CUTTER: He was starting to lay a drumbeat out there questioning whether or not the health care that she did have, that she's been open about and has worn those glasses in front of a Senate hearing, he's laying the groundwork to start questioning whether or not that health scare is somehow disqualifying of her of being president.

We know that it's not. The American people know that it's not. Just look at what she's done over the last year. Nothing has slowed her down. Anybody who is questioning whether or not Hillary Clinton is going to be outrun by somebody younger or somebody who didn't have a similar health scare is going to be proven wrong. But this is what Karl Rove does best.

He's just putting it out there. Hey, he's not suggesting anything. He's just putting it out there. And people are going to start nipping away at it.

Particularly -- you know, it's interesting to see him he was trying to double down on it at one of your competitive networks this morning and they didn't bite. They didn't bite. Even they were questioning the facts of what Rove was putting out there.

TAPPER: Look, since both of you are such seasoned hands, even though neither of you look seasoned, in --

GINGRICH: I'm a lot more seasoned --

TAPPER: Especially Stephanie.

Since both of you are seasoned hands in politics, when decisions are made, for instance, I remember the Clinton campaign in 2008, different operatives would bring up -- Senator Obama is going to be asked about his past drug use. I'm just raising the question -- some of those people were disassociated from the Clinton campaign after they did that.

But when that type of thing happens, is it planned? How is it done, based on your guess? Because, obviously, neither of you have been involved in anything like that. CUTTER: Well, I think that it probably happens in all sorts of different ways. I don't think this was planned by anybody but Karl Rove, but he's clearly been thinking about it for a long time. He raised it unsolicited last night and brought it up again this morning. He's trying to walk it back.

But, look, once you say something like that, the damage is done. It doesn't matter what you back. It's out there.

TAPPER: Speaker Gingrich, you know what I mean. Sometimes the decision has to be made and again, certainly you never did it. But the decision is made, look, we need to get this out there. Nobody is picking up on it. So, we're going to have Joe go out there and say it and we'll say, well, I don't know anything about that.

GINGRICH: Look, national politics is and should be very tough business. Both of us have been involved. You've covered it. Occasionally, you've been tough yourself.

TAPPER: Yes.

GINGRICH: So, you know, that's fine. But I think what you have here, this isn't some random, small -- this is one of the major political figures in the Republican Party saying something that is totally inappropriate and doing it in a way that represents the worst kind of modern politics. Nothing drives decent people away from running for office, more than this kind of attack because they'd say, why would I put my family through this?

It weakens the fabric of -- in both parties, it weakens the fabric of democracy when we have this kind of personal stuff that has no place. We've got lots of stuff to fight with Hillary Clinton about -- big things, important things. We shouldn't be engaged in this.

TAPPER: Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, Stephanie Cutter, back from maternity leave, we're going to see you both this evening on "CROSSFIRE", 6:30 p.m. Eastern, 3:30 Pacific.

Stephanie and Newt, thanks for joining us and great to have you on set again.

Coming up on our money lead, stocks continue on their record, but a warning to those who are close to retirement. That's coming up next.

Plus, Donald Sterling making a bigger mess by attempting to defend himself. Who allowed him to speak out? That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Our money lead now: stocks surging to yet another record high. The S&P topped 1,900 for the first time ever today. To put that in perspective, financial behemoth Goldman Sachs predicted that the index would close this year at that number. So, with the markets a full eight months ahead of schedule, will the good times on the trading floor keep on rolling?

Let's bring CNN chief business correspondent and host of "YOUR MONEY", Christine Romans.

Christine, great to see you as always.

The market shows no signs of slowing down. What's driving this?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Driving it is corporate earnings, and the fact that companies are squeezing profits even in situations when they're not necessarily getting a lot more sales, they are managing to make money and they've got a lot of money in the bank and the economy is slowly improving and that's helping these companies.

So, stocks reflect corporate earnings and corporate earnings are doing fine. And when you look at stocks -- you see the Dow, a record today. The S&P, a record today. The S&P up about 3 percent so far this year. I think people get a little blase about how many records we've seen.

Look at the S&P 500, Jake, over the past two years, up 40 percent. The stocks in your 401(k) most likely look more like the S&P 500 than the Dow 30. The S&P is 500 stocks, 40 percent.

Now, a lot of people wondering if maybe the good times are going to have to come to an end at some point.

TAPPER: Well, let's talk about that. Those getting close to retirement -- they might want to keep a closer eye on their portfolios, experts say. Why?

ROMANS: They absolutely should, and here's why -- because the closer you get to ret retirement, the more you're going to need your money. And the less time you're going to have to overcome any kind of market pullback.

There has not been a 10 percent technical correction in the S&P 500, Jake, for about two years now. We've been waiting -- usually you get a couple, three in that time period. We haven't really had that big pullback. You certainly don't want that to happen, just as you have to draw down your money to live on.

So, it's really important, if you're close to retirement, to make sure you're not too heavily weighted in the stock market that is more weighted for your age and your risk.

Young people, though, young people want to see a pull back. They want to see the stock market sell off so they could buy stocks a little cheaper and to have their own nest egg.

TAPPER: Christine Romans in New York, thank you so much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

TAPPER: Coming up, he's Donald Sterling's punching bag. So, what does Magic Johnson think of the L.A. Clippers' owners latest accusations, that he doesn't done enough for African-Americans? Magic Johnson responds to Anderson Cooper, that's next.

Plus, has a 500-year-old mystery been solved? One explorer says he can prove a sunken ship wreck off the coast of Haiti is Christopher Columbus' ship. What does he claim is the smoking gun?

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