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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Terrorism Arrest; Is Hillary Ready to Announce?; Deadly Twister; Interview with U.S. Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado; Can Dash Cam Video Change this Case?. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired April 10, 2015 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:00:03] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news: A would-be suicide bomber who allegedly wanted to kill U.S. troops for ISIS was collared by the FBI in Kansas.
I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.
The politics lead. After months of speculation, expectation, more than a few coy nondenial denials, the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign is launching for reals this weekend. And the Republican Party is already on the attack.
The national lead. A deadly twister rips through the Midwest, knocking over tractor-trailers like they were toys, ravaging towns, shredding buildings and leaving two people dead.
And the buried lead today, a CNN investigation into a spring break getaway to an island paradise that turned into a tragic nightmare, two teenagers still in comas, poisoned. How many others might be at risk?
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We are going to begin today with some breaking news in our national lead. Hours ago, an FBI sting operation was announced. They had caught an American allegedly trying to commit acts of terror on behalf of ISIS, but unlike others who had been snagged by the FBI, others who wanted to join the terrorists in Syria, or Iraq, this individual allegedly wanted to import that terror right here on to U.S. soil.
Let's go right to CNN justice reporter Evan Perez.
Evan, tell us who this 20-year-old man who was apprehended is, and what did he intend to do?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: His name is John T. Booker Jr. He also goes by the name Mohammed Abdullah Hassan. He is 20 years old, Jake.
And he was arrested this morning as he tried to detonate a van bomb that he thought -- or he tried to arm a van bomb that he planned to drive on to Fort Riley in Kansas, hoping to kill as many U.S. troops as possible. This bomb was not active. It was a fake bomb that was constructed by the FBI and placed there with two informants that he didn't realize were FBI informants. He got on the radar of the FBI because last year, February 2014, he
started posting Facebook messages in which he said, for instance, "I will soon be leaving you forever, so goodbye. I'm going to wage jihad in hopes that I die."
It so happens that he had signed up to join the U.S. Army and was due to start basic training in April. The FBI came and interviewed him and yet months later, he still falls for this sting working with a couple of informants and said that he wanted to carry out his suicide bombing in honor or in support of ISIS.
TAPPER: Shocking news. Evan Perez, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Let's turn now to our other lead today. It's our politics lead. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton set to pull the trigger on her 2016 presidential campaign this weekend, Sunday specifically. Clinton will launch her second bid for the White House, but sources tell CNN she is going to ditch the pomp and circumstance of the large crowds and the soaring oratory and an aura of inevitability.
Part of the plan to make her announcement seem less like a Fortune 500 company ringing in the opening bell, more like a startup, perhaps, carefully cultivating investors and voters, earning it. That's the plan anyway.
Step one in that gambit, immediately hitting the road to the state where her 2008 campaign ran aground, Iowa, where she came in third, as you might recall.
Let's get right to CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar.
Brianna, Democrats have waited a long time for this. We know the news is going to come via video, through social media. What else can you tell us about this imminent announcement?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, as we expect her to go to Iowa and New Hampshire, we are expecting a message that is very much previewed by the newly public epilogue to her paperback version of her book "Hard Choices."
That appears to be she is running very much as a grandmother who wants to make sure that she improves opportunities for her granddaughter's generation.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Don't you some day want to see a woman president of the United States of America?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
KEILAR (voice-over): Sweeping aside months, even years of speculation, CNN has learned Hillary Clinton will announce her presidential campaign this Sunday. Like her 2007 announcement: H. CLINTON: I announce today that I'm forming a presidential exploratory committee.
KEILAR: ... it will come via video, a message she has already filmed to be released on social media. But that is where Clinton advisers hope the comparisons to her failed 2008 bid will end.
In a newly released epilogue to her book "Hard Choices," Clinton lays out a rationale for her candidacy, that the birth of her granddaughter, Charlotte, pushed her to run and will fuel a campaign message about equal opportunity for all.
"Unfortunately," she writes, "too few of the children born in the United States and around the world today will grow up with the same opportunities as Charlotte." Clinton says of becoming a grandmother, "Rather than make me want to slow down, it has spurred me to speed up."
[16:05:05] She will follow her announcement Sunday with a trip to the early caucus state of Iowa.
H. CLINTON: I'm back.
KEILAR: In 2008, her third-place finish there signaled the beginning of the end for her campaign.
A new Quinnipiac University poll shows her admission she used a personal e-mail account to conduct government business as secretary of state may have affected her favorability there. And Clinton will need to navigate other challenges, distinguishing herself from a relatively unpopular President Obama without alienating his vast coalition of loyal voters, handling one of the most controversial part of Obama's record, foreign policy.
She served as his secretary of state and was in charge during the Benghazi attack in 2012. And questions about her age. If elected, she would be 69 when she took office, making her the second oldest president in history.
And there is also the Bill factor. How will the campaign manage the sometimes unpredictable former president?
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I have ever seen.
KEILAR: Questions Clinton's new staff, working out of office space already leased in Brooklyn, New York, hope to be better poised to answer when the campaign becomes official.
KEILAR: Now, Clinton insiders, Jake, say that her first stop in Iowa is important, that this shows that the campaign is going to be different and that she's showing she wants to aggressively run for the Democratic nomination, even though she is very much the front-runner there. But then, of course, she is on to New Hampshire, and, as you know,
that was much friendlier territory to her in 2008. She pulled out a big win there that was unexpected, but ultimately insufficient to help push her towards the nomination.
TAPPER: Brianna Keilar, thank you so much.
Let's chew over all that with CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and also CNN political commentator Carl Bernstein, who wrote a book on Secretary Clinton: "A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton."
Thank you both for being here.
Donna, we know when Hillary Clinton is going to announce, but we still don't really know what her message is going to be. There has to be a raison d'etre, a reason why she should be president. What do you think it will be?
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There is no question if she announces over the weekend that she will seek the presidency, she's going to talk about the future. She's going to talk about the issues that most Americans care about, the economy. She's going to talk about, how do we grow this economy?
She is going to address some difficult issues that we know often are not talked about in Washington, D.C., because we cannot forge a compromise. She is a woman of substance, she's a woman of ideas. She's a compassionate woman. And I'm sure that there's a lot of excitement about her potential candidacy this weekend.
TAPPER: Carl, tied to this announcement, Secretary Clinton has released a new epilogue for her memoir "Hard Choices" talking about how the birth of her granddaughter, Charlotte -- quote -- "had already helped me see the world in new ways."
Carl, do you buy that? Is this Charlotte factor really why she's running?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, I think it's probably true that as a grandmother she is seeing the world in new ways and it gives her a platform that she can spring off of on particular issues and in a particular persona.
She is going to make the Republicans and Republican governance the real issue to every extent that she can, as well as her qualifications, as well as the record of herself and her husband, which looks pretty good, the Clinton years, in retrospect, and especially after the war in Iraq and what we have suffered as a result of that disastrous war, though she voted for it.
It depends on who the Republican nominee is, how she is going to act and react, and then, also, she's got to get through these primaries very clean, and she's going to have opposition, and the opposition is going to say, look, this cannot be a coronation. We don't want another Bush/Clinton race, whether it's Chafee, whether it's O'Malley of Maryland. It's going to be a run-up.
But there always are surprises. She's got her work cut out for her. And she's going to be the issue herself, given the questions about her truthfulness, given her record on certain things like the e-mails. And it's going to be a real struggle and fascinating.
TAPPER: Lot of questions about her obviously, Donna.
One of them, Brianna alluded to. If she wins, she would be the second oldest president in American history, behind only Ronald Reagan. Does casting herself in this grandmotherly aura run the risk of that being something that her opponents can exploit even further? She also has questions about her health.
BRAZILE: Oh, no. Look, she will be able to answer all these questions. She has the energy, the enthusiasm and the passion to lead this country.
And you know what, Jake? At the end of the day, age is a number, but the number she should be focusing on, of course, is the number of delegates she needs to win, of course, the number of voters that she needs to win that, the amount of money she needs to win. But there's no question, all of these issues will be raised.
[16:10:09] But what voters will see on the campaign trail is a candidate who is prepared to lead, a candidate who will ultimately, I think, begin a whole new chapter in American history.
TAPPER: Of course, Carl, she is a known quantity and there are some poll numbers that show her for the first time losing to a potential Republican foe in swing states. In Colorado in this Quinnipiac poll, she is trailing Kentucky Senator Rand Paul 44-41. In Iowa, it's a virtual tie, 43-42 for Clinton. In Virginia, Clinton holds a four- point advantage over Paul 47-43.
Voters in each of these states also say they don't think the former first lady, secretary of state, senator, is honest and trustworthy. This seems like a real vulnerability for her.
BERNSTEIN: Well, it is her ultimate vulnerability, probably, and at the same time. We are so far away from the real election. Again, first, we have got to get through the primaries. And if she were to face Rand Paul in the general election, there's an awful lot that she can go to about the Republicans.
I doubt that those poll numbers will be where they are now. They could be up, they could be down. We are talking about a snapshot so far out, which is all poll numbers are.
BERNSTEIN: Again, the real issues are the economy, foreign policy. And she's going to address those, as will her opponents, and it's going to be a hell of a fight. I think there's no question about it.
But she's got an awful lot of experience. She knows the mistakes she's made in the past. Her story itself is a compelling one, and at the same time, there are aspects of her story that the Republicans are going to continually attack and we will see how vulnerable she is and how she responds.
And there is real vulnerability and there is also the question of whether or not there is a kind of Clinton fatigue factor, just as there might well be a Bush fatigue factor, and particularly Bush at war, and the fact that Jeb Bush if he is the nominee has some of the same people around him on foreign policy, Paul Wolfowitz, among others, who brought us this disastrous war.
All right, Carl Bernstein, Donna Brazile, thank you so much. We will continue this conversation next week, I'm sure.
Coming up next, Republicans already on the attack, releasing this ominous ad ahead of Hillary Clinton's official announcement. One Republican senator acknowledges to me that Clinton has one major advantage over her Republican opponents. And that's next.
[16:16:57] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Continuing in the politics lead, on Sunday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will announce her run at the Oval Office and while her supporters hope that Democrats will band together behind her, there is one group of folks thoroughly united against her, Republicans who want the White House. Ten potential Republican candidates spending their weekend in Nashville at the National Rifle Association Convention, each with 10 minutes to rally the base and pay tribute to NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, who aimed his rhetoric at the former secretary today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA: When her husband stalked and seduced a young White House intern and later perjured himself, Hillary didn't just look the other way. She actively participated in the cover-up and ensuing smear campaign against the victim.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Let's bring in Republican senator from Colorado, Cory Gardner.
Senator, thanks so much for joining me.
We heard Republicans take some shots there at Secretary Clinton, no pun intended, at the NRA convention. The RNC also wasting no time releasing this ad on the heels of the news that Secretary Clinton is running. Let's just watch a quick snippet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary Clinton has some explaining to do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Used her personal e-mail account to conduct official business.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wanted to reset relations with Russia.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not really working out well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Potentially catastrophic move for Hillary Clinton.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Taking millions of dollars from foreign governments.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Pretty sinister seeming ad. The Republican Party must be pretty worried about Secretary Clinton to be attacking her so quickly.
SEN. CORY GARDNER (R), COLORADO: Well, I think this is just defining what the American people are already believing about Hillary Clinton. The fact is several years ago, she ran a TV commercial against then candidate Obama, who do you want answering the call and I think what we're seeing here is defining Hillary Clinton on the phone call that she's been answering, the phone call of hiding her attempted e-mails at the State Department, the phone call that she's received from foreign donors to her foundations.
I think the RNC and others are right to say, hey, you know what, she's the nominee, she's going to be the nominee. They have rolled out the red carpet for her and let's talk about what she has done during her time as secretary of state and the things she's done recently that really question whether or not she has the ability and the record to be president of the United States.
TAPPER: What do you think is her greatest vulnerability and what do you think is her greatest strength as a candidate?
GARDNER: In terms of greatest strength, I think universal name ID. People know who she is. They know the Clinton family. President Clinton was a very popular president, remains a very popular president to this day.
She is successful in her own right, no doubt about that, as a senator, successful as secretary of state. But again, disagreeing with many of the policies that she pursued not only as senator and as secretary of state.
TAPPER: I don't have to tell you how important the women's vote is because you won your Senate seat partly because of it. You are also a father of two girls, baby girl just born in December, which might drive home the historic nature of the Clinton candidacy even more.
[16:20:06] Assuming that your nominee is a male, which I think is a safe assumption, do you think his running mate needs to be a woman?
GARDNER: I think we need to have the best running mate, the best vice president candidate who will assume the duties of the presidency if something should happen. Let's always -- we always pray and hope that it doesn't happen. But the fact is we need somebody who is best qualified, be that a woman, be that a man -- somebody who can do the best job for the American people in that great time of tragedy that it would be.
TAPPER: Let's turn to foreign policy. You're on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. You just returned from a trip overseas. You visited Kuwait, Israel, Iraq, Jordan, Afghanistan.
I know you have serious concerns about this Iran framework deal for their nuclear program. Your fellow freshman Senator Tom Cotton told me that air strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities would be preferable to implementing this deal. Do you agree?
GARDNER: What I agree with is the need for a good deal. I think that's something that Senator Cotton has been very firm on, whether it's his communications to leaders around the world that any bad deal could be undone by Congress but I think here's the ultimate desire of all of us. That's to make sure that we have a good deal, that eliminates nuclear capabilities, not just slowing it down. This president has gone to amazing lengths to try to secure international legitimacy for the Iranian deal.
But we should start with domestic legitimacy and that begins next week with the passage of the Corker-Menendez bill out of the foreign relations committee in the Senate and on to the full Senate for a vote. So, as we have this negotiation, as we talk about what the details of this framework will really be, I think it's important to understand that we need congressional oversight, congressional feedback, congressional approval to secure that domestic legitimacy.
TAPPER: Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, thank you so much. Have fun at that Rockies game.
GARDNER: Hey, thank you very much. Things are going well so far. Let's hope we keep it that way. Early on.
TAPPER: Thank you so much.
Coming up, it shows a completely different side of the officer who was caught on video killing an unarmed man. The moments before the fatal shooting recorded on dash cam video. What is the officer saying? That's next.
Plus, this tornado destroyed nearly everything in its path but somehow, almost everyone survived. How did they protect themselves? We're on the ground in the hardest hit area, coming up.
[16:26:31] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
The national lead now: new questions after a newly released dash cam video shows a South Carolina police officer's first encounter with the man just minutes later he shot and killed. Did Walter Scott take off running because he knew of a bench warrant against him for unpaid child support? Did Officer Michael Slager need to chase him, given that he already had Scott's ID, so he knew his name and address? And what happened in those critical moments when no one was filming Scott or Slager, out of sight of this dash cam, but before a witness captured the deadly shooting on his cell phone?
There is no clear picture of what happened in that brief window of time.
CNN's Jason Carroll joins me now live in North Charleston, South Carolina.
Jason, we just heard from Slager's lawyers. What are they saying?
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, they are frustrated, very frustrated at the way that information is being released here. A spokeswoman for Officer Slager's law firm released a statement late this afternoon. I will read part of it to you.
It says, "Unfortunately, despite having made requests, he," he meaning Andy Savage, the attorney representing officer Slager, "he has not received the cooperation from law enforcement that the media has and he has yet to receive any investigative documents, audio or videotapes other than the copy of Mr. Slager's arrest warrant." This as the investigation into the shooting, Jake, as you know, is well under way.
CARROLL (voice-over): Walter Scott is at the wheel of this Mercedes. Dash cam video shows the 50-year-old pulling over for the North Charleston police officer who would kill him minutes later.
OFFICER MICHAEL SLAGER: Do you have your license, registration and insurance card?
CARROLL: All seems routine for officer Michael Slager until Scott exits the car once --
SLAGER: Gotta stay in the car!
CARROLL: And then again, this time bolting from the scene.
Less than a block away, the now infamous video of the shooting shows what happens next. The moments that would end Scott's life and put Slager's in the hands of the court. We believed early on that there was something not right about what happened in that encounter. That's what investigators from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division or SLED now say about the deadly use of force last Saturday. North Charleston police called the state agency to the scene minutes after the shooting.
SLED investigators saying, "There were inconsistencies, including what appeared to be multiple gunshot wounds in Mr. Scott's back." They say the cell phone video confirmed their suspicions.
Scott's family says he may have tried to run from the traffic stop due to an outstanding bench warrant he owed $18,000 in back child support and there are now questions whether a scuffle with Slager caused the officer to fear for his life.
FEIDIN SANTANA, WITNESSED SHOOTING RECORDED VIDEO: Mr. Scott never tried to fight -- to fight back with the officer or nothing. He just tried to get away from him, from the taser and the cop.
GWEN NICHOLS, WITNESSED ENCOUNTER: It was like a tussle type of thing, like what do you want or what did I do type of thing.
CARROLL: Video taken after the shooting shows Slager, his uniform disheveled, passionately discussing the events with a fellow officer.
KAREN SHARPE, SLAGER'S MOTHER: I just have to let it be.
CARROLL: Slager's mother told ABC News she just could not believe her son shot Scott in the back.
SHARPE: He loved being a police officer. I can't imagine him doing something that it's just not like him. That's not his character.
CARROLL: The 33-year-old was promptly fired and is now being held in isolation, only able to receive visitors over video link like this one.