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White House Power Outage; Can Rand Paul Win?; Interview With Russell Crowe; Power Outage Hits White House, State Dept.; Death Penalty on the Table in Terror Trial. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 7, 2015 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:09] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Can Rand Paul actually win this thing?

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The politics lead, his message today loud and clear. Senator Rand Paul is running for president. The freshman senator says he will ride a wave of liberty lovers everywhere into the White House. But a key part of the Republican establishment thinks President Paul is a bad idea. And they're going to try to stop it.

The national lead. Offices, public transit, even the State Department and the White House left in the dark today. What caused the power outage in Washington, D.C.? And what does it say about how vulnerable our grid is to cyber-terrorism?

And the pop culture lead. He's been a math genius, a gladiator, a biblical hero. But now one of the world's biggest movie stars is playing director for the first time. Russell Crowe joins me right here on THE LEAD live to talk about his new film and its message.

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

We are going to begin today with our politics lead, just hours ago a major announcement, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul declaring Washington, D.C., thoroughly broken. And he wants to be Mr. Fix-It. In Louisville, Kentucky, to chants of "President Paul," the senator announced he's running for the Oval Office and is coming to take our country back and crush the Washington machine, both Democrats and Republicans.

It's a message that echoes the Tea Party tune that first helped Paul vanquish the Republican establishment candidate for Senate back in 2010 and on to the short list of potential Republican front-runners. Today's Paul speech featured the kind of aspirational talk that has become his hallmark, limited government, closing the income gap, slashing of foreign aid and railing against the surveillance state.

His new campaign Web site is even hawking NSA spy cam blockers. And, yes, if you were wondering, you can buy that or other Rand-branded chachkas with Bitcoins. That's how 21st century this guy is.

But those same establishment Republicans Paul is seeking to defeat made it very clear today they consider him a threat. And they're going to take him on.

I'm going to get right to CNN chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash. She's in Louisville, Kentucky.

Dana, Senator Paul today clearly trying to thread the needle between his base, these libertarian-leaning voters, and more mainstream Republicans. How did he do?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He absolutely is. And, at the same time, he's trying to reach out beyond both of those to constituencies he says Republicans need.

He had an African-American minister saying that he is key in helping -- wanting to help those groups. He had a doctor who talked about the fact that he, as an ophthalmologist, has helped people in need with his medical practice.

But it all comes down to the question of whether or not this former Tea Party darling can expand even more broadly to win a Republican nomination.


BASH (voice-over): In many ways, Rand Paul's platform for president sounds a lot like the 2010 Tea Party credo he used to snatch his Senate seat from the GOP establishment.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Too often, when Republicans have won, we have squandered our victory by becoming part of the Washington machine. That's not who I am.

BASH: But any successful presidential run would require a much larger coalition. And Paul insists he will build it by bringing what he calls opportunity through liberty to minority communities who usually vote for Democrats.

PAUL: This message of liberty is for all Americans, Americans from all walks of life.

BASH: Paul is also inheriting throngs of young enthusiastic activists inspired by his father and fellow libertarian, former presidential candidate Ron Paul.

PAUL: I say the phone records of law-abiding citizens are none of their damn business.


BASH: But his father's appeal had limits. For Rand Paul to win the White House nomination now, he's been moving towards mainstream GOP positions, no doubt why here Ron Paul was seen, but not heard.

And while some rhetoric mirrored anti-interventionist views of his dad like opposing foreign aid...

PAUL: I say it must end. I say not one penny more to these haters of America!

BASH: ... much of his foreign policy talk was aimed at proving to GOP hawks he's no isolationist.

PAUL: The enemy is radical Islam. You can't get around it. I will do whatever it takes to defend America from these haters of mankind.

BASH: But even before he announced, the man who made infamous swift boat ads against John Kerry released one against Paul for his stance on Iran.

NARRATOR: Rand Paul is standing with him.

BASH: In an unusual move for an announcement speech, Paul got into the weeds to explain his Iran position, saying he would oppose any deal that doesn't end Iran's nuclear ambitions, but:

[16:05:05] PAUL: Trust but verify is required in any negotiation, but that our goal always should be and always is peace, not war.



BASH: And, Jake, part of his announcement tour is going to include a stop in South Carolina, the first-in-the-South primary state, of course.

He's going to be standing in front of the historic USS Yorktown, a warship. And that really is indicative of how much he has changed or at least he's trying to appear to have changed on matters of defense. But he also, of course, is going to hit the Live Free or Die state of New Hampshire, which has been pretty good to the Paul family, and to caucus states Iowa and Nevada,where his organization issues and his organization ability, again with his father's help, should make him do pretty well there, Jake.

TAPPER: Dana Bash in Louisville, thank you so much.

Let's bring in CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp and senior editor for "The Federalist" Mollie Hemingway.

Thanks to both of you for joining me.

S.E., let's start with you. I know you're not Senator Paul's biggest fan. But removing your views on him, he could be a serious contender, I think.


Look, he's got a lot of younger fans, and he comes in with something established, a brand. That's the hardest thing to do, especially in a crowded primary, to distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack. He already has spent four years making those distinctions pretty clear. Now, I think he's got a long way to go in terms of clarifying his positions on a number of issues. But he comes in with the ready-made brand. And that will certainly

help him distinguish himself from the 20 other Republicans who are slated to run.

TAPPER: Mollie, Senator Paul in his speech, obviously trying to assuage the fears of people who prefer a more muscular foreign policy, said that radical Islam is the enemy. He's not afraid to take it on. He is going to do whatever it takes to defend America.

Were you surprised at how much he talked about national defense and Iran and ISIS?


There is a tremendous amount of hostility toward Rand Paul precisely on this issue. People, the hawks in the party are very nervous about his position. So he needed to come out strong. And he is a threat. He is sort of the middle ground between what you normally hear in D.C. politics, either this sort of peacenik, we're never going to identify what threats face us, vs. the we're going to get involved in every conflict that we see in the Middle East.

He presents sort of a middle ground. We're not going to get involved in a lot of war, but when we do, we're going to win, not just go and get bogged down in nation-building.

CUPP: Yes, but he's not been -- this is the problem. He has not been clear on his position.

I understand the political expedience of having to get less isolationist, more moderate on foreign policy. He's done that on Israel. But there are glaring contradictions and gaps in his policy. How do you go from that noninterventionist position to suddenly OKing airstrikes in Iraq? How do you go from anti-defense spending to wild increases in defense spending?

I mean, he's changed so much that libertarians in particular should be asking, why? Is it because your politics have become unpalatable and so you have made the crass calculation they need changing? Or have you discovered that they're just impractical and so you have kind of matured as a senator and understood you need a more pragmatic governing philosophy?

HEMINGWAY: Right. I think people actually have never quite understood his position and he does need to clarify it.

But his view seems to be, we should mind our own business, America should mind her own business, but mind it hard. And so you will hear different things depending on the situation. He might not see the need to get involved in every random country's conflict. But when there's a threat that hurts American interests or American people, he's actually quite hard-core about the need to go to war.

But it comes off differently because so many people in D.C., and so many people who are engaged in foreign policy discussions are at one extreme or another. He presents a middle ground that is definitely different than what you hear here, but I think it's much more palatable to average American voters.


TAPPER: I just want to run -- there is this Republican group that came out with an ad attacking Paul for his position. I don't know, if the control room, if we have -- but there it is. Here's the ad.


NARRATOR: ... negotiations with Iran. But he doesn't understand the threat.

PAUL: You know, it's ridiculous to think that they're a threat to our national security.

NARRATOR: Rand Paul is wrong and dangerous.


TAPPER: This is a very forceful out-of-the-gate attack on Rand Paul from some of the foreign policy establishment.

Mollie, I had Vice President Cheney on the show a few months ago. I asked him, if it came down to Rand Paul vs. Hillary Clinton, who would you vote for? He refused to answer the question.

HEMINGWAY: He's actually not alone. There are other people like John McCain and Lindsey Graham who have been very tepid, if supportive at all.

But I'm not sure if that's a problem, so much as a benefit. There are a lot of Republican voters, there are a lot of voters in this country in general who didn't like the way that the country waged its last couple of wars. We didn't win them. We had resources spread out all over the place. We didn't have a good strategy for winning them.

[16:10:13] So, having people who are critical of this position who were part of the that bad war-fighting effort are not -- that's not necessarily a problem.

TAPPER: There's one other elephant in the room, and that is Ron Paul, his father, who is -- I don't know how to say it without ending up with nine million tweets, but has very objectionable views to many Americans, to many Republicans, and has affiliated himself with some real crackpots on the right. I think that is definitely guarantee those tweets, but...

CUPP: Incoming.

TAPPER: How do you deal with that? How do you deal with somebody like Ron Paul?

CUPP: Rand Paul?


CUPP: Yes.

Rand Paul sort of I think spent the past decade watching his dad run for president, and thought to himself, I can do that better. And so I think you have seen him moderate because he understands rightly that Ron Paul's views were completely unpalatable.

So he's starting from that, you know, far right or left -- I don't even know what to call it -- place of Ron Paul and moderating toward the center. The trick is going to be to take the Ron Paul supporters, the young folks who liked Ron Paul's libertarianism, and also make his -- again governing philosophy, which is different from his libertarian philosophy, work for the center.

That's going to be a tough thing to pull off. I know you're confident he can, but I think he's going to have a tough time with that.

TAPPER: We have to leave it there.

But thank you so much, Mollie Hemingway, a great debut on "THE LEAD." We appreciate your being here.

S.E., always good to see you. Thank you so much.

Our national lead now, a widespread power outage across Washington, D.C., affecting not only local residents and businesses, but several news organizations and the White House and the State Department. What caused it? Does it expose a vulnerability in the D.C. power grid?

That's next.


[16:16:14] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Our national lead now: the White House, the State Department, the Justice Department and other very sensitive, very high security areas went dark this afternoon after a major power outage affected thousands in the Washington, D.C., area. A federal official now tells CNN that a blast at a power transfer line in southern Maryland caused the blackout.

Of course, a widespread outage such as this in the nation's capital on what was storm-free early spring day does more than just send people huffing and puffing up the stairway giving the lack of working elevators, it also sends suspicions throughout the minds of many who live or work in this area, including military and homeland officials, about a potential attack that could be devastating, life-changing in a way that most of us never, ever think about.

CNN's Rene Marsh has been on top of this story all afternoon, joins us now.

Rene, what happened?

RENE MARSH, CNN GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know, in addition to the White House and the Department of Justice which you just mentioned, power also out briefly at the Capitol building, also the Smithsonian Museums lost pure. They had to evacuate those buildings. Those also expanded to mass transit as well. Several train stations were forced to operate on backup power.

And I want you to take a look at the moment at the State Department. There you see it. That's when the power went out.

Spokeswoman Marie Harf using her cell phone, being very resourceful there, as a light source. There you see it. The power at this hour we can tell you has been fully restored there at the State Department and the other federal buildings.

You know, Jake, the utility company Pepco says that around 1:00 this afternoon there was a dip in the voltage and because of a problem with a transmission line, that problem we know stemmed from a fire/explosion at a switcher station. And that's what kind of led to this ripple effect of power being out.

We should point out -- they say at this point, the Department of Homeland Security -- no connection to terrorism.

TAPPER: All right. Good to know. Rene Marsh, thank you so much.

Joining me now live from Los Angeles to discuss the bigger picture is Shawn Henry, former FBI executive assistant director and president of cyber security firm CrowdStrike.

Sean, good to see you.

Thankfully this doesn't appear to be a willful act, an attack. But what can we learn about today's outage about the fragility of our infrastructure, especially in Washington, D.C., the nation's capital?

SHAWN HENRY, FORMER EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT DIR., FBI: Yes, Jake. So, I mean, this is really indicative of the impact that some type of lack of resiliency of our infrastructure can have on Washington, D.C., when you look at the White House and State Department, other buildings that we really rely on day to day from a national security perspective, for them to be out of power, certainly a cause for some concern.

And our adversaries are looking at this. They've been targeting our infrastructure for a long time. They've made no point about it that they are going to target from a cyber perspective our infrastructure because they recognize how fragile it is and they know what the impact would be on our critical infrastructure if it was taking down. That would have a cascading impact on our society.

TAPPER: Shawn, as you and I have discussed, there's a huge disconnect between how much national security officials, people like you, worry about a cyber attack or successful attack on our electrical grid and how much the public knows about this as a threat and how much they worry about it.

Explain to our viewers, how bad could it get? What would a successful cyber attack or attack on our grid do to this country? HENRY: Well, we've got a lot of vulnerability in hardware and

software, and we have critical pieces of infrastructure that are increasingly being connected to the network, all of those connections provide an ingress for an adversary to get into those networks.

[16:20:05] And by manipulating code, by inputting malicious software, adversaries can potentially disrupt or take control of some of the computer systems that run our critical infrastructure.

And there are people who don't take this seriously. I can tell you that today, on my way to this studio to come talk to you, I talked to a high-level official in a state government who expressed some concern to me about the energy sector in his state. And he said he talked to somebody in the Department of Energy, and the person in the Department of Energy said, no need to worry about this, energy is not a target of the adversary, which is absolutely wrong.

We know for a fact that nation states, terrorist groups, hacktivists have identified the critical infrastructure, energy specifically, the power grid as a target. We have to be concerned about that.

TAPPER: And, Shawn, just a week ago, President Obama signed an executive order aimed at retaliation against foreign cyber attacks. What exactly would that executive order do and do you think it goes far enough?

HENRY: Yes. So, I think that's a great step. We've been calling for this for a long time. We've called out -- the government, and the private sector has called certain nation states, Russia, China and Iran specifically, for some of the ingress into networks where they've stolen intellectual property and research and development. And that there's been no real retaliation or response from the government.

What this executive order is it lays out financial actions, sanctions that can be taken against individuals, organizations or countries that are proven to have taken data out of the U.S., U.S. corporations or have launched some type of an attack or disruptive measures against critical infrastructure.

And this is very similar to some of the actions we've taken against organized crime, against major drug cartels, seizing assets and holding them financially accountable. So, it's a good step. The devil is in the details. It will bear out in the future when we start to see some of these actions being put into place.

TAPPER: All right. There's a major cyber war going on that most people aren't really paying attention to.

Shawn Henry, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, his lawyers say he was there when the murder happens, but that former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez did not pull the trigger. Our reporter inside the courtroom says he looked confident as the jury gets the case.

Plus, he's an Oscar winning actor who not only stars in but directs his latest film. Russell Crowe will join me live on set to tell me what it was like to be behind the camera for the first time in his important war movie. That's ahead.


[16:26:32] TAPPER: Welcome back do THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Happening now in our national lead: jurors in the Boston marathon bombing trial could decide the fate of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at any moment. The 21-year-old is facing 30 charges, including a weapon of mass destruction in the terrorist attacks that killed four people, Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, 8-year-old Martin Richard, and MIT Police Officer Sean Collier. Seventeen of those charges carry the death penalty. If he's found guilty on just one of them, Tsarnaev may be sentenced to death.

Let's get right to CNN's Alexandra Field who's live outside federal court in Boston.

Alexandra, do we have any indication yet from the jury about how long they might take to deliberate or how they might be leaning in this case?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, certainly, this isn't a whodunit. They've been inside of that courtroom -- inside of that room deliberating for about seven hours now. But you'll remember that this is a case where in the opening statements the defense said, it was him. In the closing arguments the defense said the defendant Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was ready to accept responsibility for his actions in the form of a verdict.

So, I don't think we're going to get a lot of surprises when the jury does timely deliver their verdict. But the guessing game now is, when the jury will be able to deliver that verdict? They've got a big job ahead of them. There may be some foregone conclusions in this case, but this is the first opportunity the jurors really have to talk about what they've seen and heard.

Remember, they've heard testimony from some 96 witnesses over the last 5 weeks or so. There's a lot that they're going to want to discuss. They also have this verdict slip in front of them. It's 32 pages long. It outlines the 30 counts. They've got to go through this methodically. They've got to check out guilty or not guilty on every one of those counts. They've got to make sure the government has made their case on each of those counts before delivering their verdict, Jake.

TAPPER: And then what happens after that, after the verdict? What comes next to determine whether or not Tsarnaev will be sentenced to death, assuming he is found guilty?

FIELD: Right. Well, you point out that if he's found guilty of just one of the 17 charges that comes with a possible death sentence, then we move into the penalty phase of this trial. And that's almost a reset of the trial. We would then go to opening statements. There would be new witnesses, new testimony. And then jurors would deliberate on whether or not to spare Tsarnaev's life.

This is the phase of the case in which we would hear a lot more from the defense, because remember, Jake, the defense only put four witnesses on the stand during the verdict phase of this trial. It will be their job to convince juror that's Tsarnaev's life should be saved. So, they'll be making the argument that we've begun to hear, that Tamerlan was the mastermind, Dzhokhar was easily influenced. You'll hear much more about his background, perhaps his family, why they say he was struggling in school, why he was particularly susceptible to Tamerlan in this case, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Alexandra Field, thank you so much.

Also in Massachusetts today, we've just learned a jury will pick up deliberations again tomorrow in the Aaron Hernandez trial. It started about an hour ago before the judge dismissed the panel for the day. The former New England Patriots star is on trial for the murder of semi-pro player Odin Lloyd. Closing arguments in the case wrapped up earlier today after nearly 10 weeks of testimony.

We've heard from Hernandez's fiancee and the owner of the Patriots, even from a Nike shoe consultant who testified about Air Jordans owned by Hernandez. We've heard a lot of circumstantial evidence but so far it doesn't seem no smoking gun.

CNN's Susan Candiotti is live in Fall River.