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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Will Assange Get Out Of Legal Limbo?; Painting Hidden Under Picasso Masterpiece; U.S.-Ghana Sets Soccer Ratings Record

Aired June 18, 2014 - 16:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back. I'm Jake Tapper.

The Politics Lead now. She's not a presidential candidate, but she kind of plays one on TV. In last night's CNN town hall, the former secretary of state was supposed to be pushing her new book "Hard Choices," but in addition to many mentions of the title of her book, we got to hear Hillary Clinton opine on topics from Benghazi to terrorism to same-sex marriage, even her thoughts on marijuana, all in a tone uncannily similar to someone who might be angling for the Oval Office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I fully support marriage equality.

I am not prepared to say that we go in with Iran right now until we get a better idea of what we're getting ourselves into.

I think we need to be very clear about the benefits of marijuana use for medicinal purposes. On recreational, you know, states are the laboratories of democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Polished talking points, the use of the personal pronoun we, even taking times to shake hands with the giant squirrel stalking her outside the event from the Republican National Committee. Clinton certainly looks and sounds like a candidate, but how much longer can Hillary Clinton refrain from officially becoming one without affecting her possible campaign?

Let's bring in Anne Gearan, staff writer for "The Washington Post," covering Hillary Clinton. And CNN political commentator Carl Bernstein, author of "A Woman In Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton."

Carl, let's start with you. We heard Clinton on a lot of issues, but did you hear a platform she could run on, a singular message about her potential candidacy?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, and that is the definition and evolution of Hillary Clinton. And she's getting it out there, and quite effectively especially yesterday.

We need to look at the phenomenon unlike anything in our political history. The Hillary Clinton rolling thunder review, at which -- we have all of the press giving hours and hours of free air time. You wouldn't do that for Jeb Bush. You wouldn't do that for any other candidate. It's kind of like she's a celebrity unlike anybody in our political system. It's a little like Mohammed Ali or Pope John Paul II in terms of the gravitation of our notebooks and cameras and fascination.

And she is setting down a kind of gauntlet that we've never faced before as reporters or as voters. She is defining herself as she wishes to. There's risk in it, but it's an amazing thing to watch.

TAPPER: Anne, one answer she gave that I thought could come back -- actually, a couple that could come back to haunt her should she choose to run. She was talking about gun control, things such as limiting magazine clips, perhaps a ban on some forms of semi-automatic assault rifles. And she said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I'm well aware that this is a hot political subject, and again, I will speak out no matter what role I find myself in. But I believe that we need a more thoughtful conversation. We cannot let a minority of people -- and that's what it is, it is a minority of people -- hold a viewpoint that terrorizes the majority of people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: What do you think about that? That could, it seems like in a primary, but certainly in a general be used against her.

ANNE GEARAN, STAFF WRITER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes. It was the feistiest she got in last night's interview, using the word terrorize, which is a charged word.

TAPPER: She's specifically talking about the NRA and the gun lobby.

GEARAN: Right, of course. But she won't say that. She won't that THAT precisely.

TAPPER: Right.

GEARAN: I think she's on pretty firm ground, as you suggest in any Democratic primary should there even be much of a primary at all.

TAPPER: Right. Right.

GEARAN: But, yes, come two years from now, that would definitely be used against her.

TAPPER: And Carl, an interesting moment on immigration. We have some new video now that just came into CNN of a customs processing facility in Texas where some of these unaccompanied children are staying after crossing the border alone. Clinton, giving an answer that might not be popular with some Latino groups about the crisis last night. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: We have to send a clear message just because your child gets across the border, that doesn't mean the child gets to stay. So we don't want to send a message that is contrary to our laws or will encourage more children to make that dangerous journey.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Carl, what did you make of that?

BERNSTEIN: You have to look at the first part of her answer about immigration in general which is very, very friendly to immigration reform, to Latinos. I don't think it's going to harm her a bit.

I also think on the question of gun control, the demographics and the numbers and particularly in the key states with independent voters are with her on this question. This is a very smart operation we are watching.

The question is has she run a risk of, for instance, in her comments about money, about the fact that her daughter -- it's been revealed this week is making $600,000, an outlandish amount of money at NBC News. Those are the kind of things that might trip her up in which some voters might say, you know, I've had enough of this.

But in terms of a message, she is looking like someone with a great command of the issues, a great understanding of the problems of the United States. She's setting them out there. She's kind of looking very reasonable. She's got ads by the Republican Party that I see coming up saying Stop Hillary. There is a reason for that. They want her stopped. They'd like to knock her out and see that she doesn't run because this is a big locomotive.

TAPPER: Polls, Anne, show that she has an overwhelming lead over any potential Democratic rival. A new "Wall Street Journal"/ NBC News poll shows would you vote for Clinton? Thirty-eight percent probably/certainly, 37 percent no.

Do polls matter this early? We are way, way far away from the election.

GEARAN: Well, certainly she'll take it as good news, assuming she does intend to run and make that announcement some months hence. The problem is it's so many months until she would either announce or really actually begin running, and that's a long time for that -- for those numbers to hang fire.

TAPPER: Do you think that there is a risk of peaking too early for her?

GEARAN: Of course. I mean, she ran that risk last time. She knows she faces it again. The cloak of inevitability did not serve her well in '08, and she is trying to make sure she doesn't have the same problem now. It's really hard because she's the -- she's the biggest thing out there. She's obviously the thing that the Republicans will be shooting at. She's the thing that the Democrats will be shooting at when the moment she says that -- that, you know, she's --

TAPPER:She's in.

GEARAN: She's in. Well, also, if she says she's out. Then all of a sudden a lot of other people --

TAPPER: That would be chaos.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: We have to go, Carl, I'm sorry.

BERNSTEIN: Another time.

TAPPER: Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

When we come back, he's been living in self-imposed exile, holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy and London for two years as of today. So, is Julian Assange ready to finally give himself up? We'll ask him next.

Plus, clearly he's a huge fan of soccer. How one suspected drug lord was caught trying to sneak into the World Cup. Our Sports Lead is ahead.

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TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. The "Buried Lead" now, these are stories that we think are not getting enough attention. Time does not exactly fly when you are holed up at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, but for two years that's exactly where Julian Assange, editor of the secret sharing site, Wikileaks has been hiding in plain sight after the Latin American country granted him political asylum.

So what is Assange still doing in that embassy? Well, he is wanted for questioning in Sweden on allegations, allegations he sexually assaulted two women in Stockholm. There are no actual charges against him there, but his lawyers think the minute he steps into Sweden he could potentially be extradited to the United States.

Now his lawyers say they have new information that could ultimately allow him to walk out of that embassy without handcuffs. Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange joins me from Ecuador's Embassy in London along with lawyer, Michael Ratner in New York. Thanks so much to both of you for being here.

Julian, I want to start with you. You promised to reveal new information about the Swedish investigation. Will it clear your name?

JULIAN ASSANGE, EDITOR, WIKILEAKS: Well, if you read the case details my name is already perfectly clear. You can go to justiceforassange.com and read all of the investigation documents that have been made available to us and it is quite clear that no woman has ever made nor is intending to make a complaint against me. This is a matter that arose out of the Swedish state and some of the women even say that the police railroaded them, that they made up the charges, et cetera and that's in the police documentation.

In relation to the case that is being filed on Tuesday next week, I hope that, yes, it will remove the arrest warrant, which is technically kept this matter going now for nearly four years, but it won't permit me to leave the embassy because we still have the threat of extradition to the U.S. from the U.K.

TAPPER: Have you really not been outside at all for two years? You haven't gone -- snuck outside just to get some air or anything?

ASSANGE: Well, you know, there's some speculation that there are roof cavities that maybe I've gotten into from time to time, but the situation is quite serious as far as the encirclement of the embassy by British police is concerned, more than $10 million has been spent according to British authorities. Some $15,000 a day with the police command around here, which includes the counterterrorism command.

When asked for a further breakdown of the details British authorities have refused under the basis that it is a national security matter and how those police are lined up. It's a serious situation. People can look at you at govways.uk which documents the politicians as to yet British government is spending so much money encircling this embassy.

TAPPER: Julian, Wikileaks is going to release some new, classified documents they say pertaining to the international negotiations of 50 countries. What can you tell us about those documents?

ASSANGE: I can tell you that they pertain to 50 countries. We're releasing it tomorrow. In total, more than 67 percent of global trade is encaptured by those negotiations. I can't reveal will any more details, but the United States, of course, and all of the countries in Europe are included.

TAPPER: Mr. Ratner, you write in "USA Today" that the U.K. can now only extradite Assange if he's being charged with a crime, not just for questioning. So why is it that Julian Assange can't go for a walk outside.

MICHAEL RATNER, ATTORNEY FOR JULIAN ASSANGE: We call it the Julian exception to the Assange law. It was passed to make extradition tougher. You can't any longer use mere allegations as was done in Julian's case. You needed a decision to charge or charges and that hasn't happened in Julian's case. The reason we call that the exception is because it's not retroactive to Julian. At least they don't think so. We as lawyers will do our best effort to say that he cannot be extradited to Sweden.

It was basically an invalid warrant and the process wouldn't have begun with these allegations so the answer is that he should be able to walk out vis-a-vis Sweden. As he pointed out and as Julian pointed out and as you did, the problem and the bear in the room has been the United States. The United States has had an intensive four-year investigation of a publisher, editor, Wikileaks, Julian Assange, and grand jury, witnesses and subpoenas and just recently in April they filed court briefs that said the investigation is continuing and it's a national security and criminal investigation of Wikileaks and Julian Assange.

So the threat, the real bear in the room is the United States and that's why we have called for an end to that investigation of a publisher and journalist. Eric Holder said he would not be prosecuting publishers and journalists, that investigation ought to end.

TAPPER: Julian Assange and Michael Ratner, thank you so much for joining us. Hope you visit us again sometime.

When we come back, an art mystery that Picasso might never have wanted anyone to know about. A man hidden beneath a different masterpiece. What exactly was the famed artist trying to hide?

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TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now it's time for our "Pop Culture Lead." This is a puzzle that has twisted up art historians for decades. A real Rubik's cubist, if you will. Experts have long suspected that this 1901 masterpiece by the great Pablo Picasso, the Blue Room, may have been a do-over of sorts for the genius.

Now with the help of some technological tricks, they finally know what Picasso has been hiding all these years. Our Athena Jones has been getting with her inner art history major for this story. Athena, quite an extra ordinary discovery.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Picasso's paintings go for millions and millions of dollars these days, but it was the artist's early struggles when he was a poor bohemian that may have led to this great art mystery.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONES (voice-over): There's more to this early masterpiece by Pablo Picasso than meets the eye.

SUSAN PRANK, ASSOCIATE CURATOR, THE PHILLIPS COLLECTION: It's something that every curator in the back of their mind they think maybe during my career I might have something spectacular happen like this.

JONES: The Blue Room is considered one of the first of his so-called blue period worth tens of millions of dollars and if you turn it sideways and use an infrared camera to see underneath the acclaimed painting, you will find a hidden surprise, a portrait of an unknown man wearing a jacket and bow tie painted a few months before the young Picasso completed the blue room in 1901.

PRANK: To find a complete painting underneath a Picasso and particularly an early work by him is just extraordinary. JONES: The Phillips Collection in Washington has spent years working to unravel the mystery of the hidden painting. The existence of which was first suspected by an art conservator who sent the museum's founder a letter in 1954 noting two different compositions with the outlines of the first showing clearly on the present paint surface.

PRANK: You can see this texture really clearly and you can see other areas of texture that don't follow the composition that we see.

JONES (on camera): These are important clues?

PRANK: Yes. And this is just looking at the painting in the studio in different kinds of lighting.

JONES (voice-over): It wasn't until the 1990s that an x-ray showed this fuzzy image below the surface. It was one step closer, but --

(on camera): But you can't really tell what this is. It looks to me very much like a blob.

(voice-over): By 2008, advanced infrared camera technology allowed Patricia Pavero to snap a photo that revealed the hidden portrait. Scientists at Cornell University and further analysis at the museum in Delaware helped determine that Picasso painted both works. The iconic artist first came to Paris in his late teens and led a poor, bohemian lifestyle. He sometimes reused canvasses to save money. Underneath 1904's woman ironing is a portrait of a man with a mustache, but who is the bearded man beneath the Blue Room? That's the next puzzle art sleuths are trying to piece together.

PRANK: This is the mystery that we're going to try to find some answers to.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JONES: So that's the big question everyone has, and I am told it will be difficult to figure out who this man was because there's no documentation, and the image doesn't match any of Picasso's sketches. Experts are also trying to create a color map of the painting since that infrared image just shows black and white and maybe one of the most exciting things I learned during this story that was there are almost certainly more examples of hidden Picassos still to be discovered so stay tuned.

TAPPER: Great story, Athena. Thank you so much.

The Sports Lead. It's not the Monday night football that America is used to, but Team USA's thrilling World Cup win over Ghana Monday night set a ratings record for ESPN. ESPN says it was the most watched soccer game in the network's history, 11 million viewers, another 1.4 million watched on ESPN's mobile app and close to 5 million more watched on Univision.

It looks like a lot of people are knocking off work to watch the World Cup and that includes an accused Mexican drug kingpin who wanted to see Mexico play host country Brazil so bad he bought tickets under his real name for the match. He was picked up waiting to board a plane in Rio Monday night.

Jose Diaz Barajas is wanted on suspicion of trafficking meth to the United States and he could come to the U.S. to face charges. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jaketapper, one word.

That's it for THE LEAD today. I'm Jake Tapper. I'll turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He is right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Mr. Blitzer, take it away.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN SITUATION ROOM HOST: Thanks very much.