Return to Transcripts main page


Is Engineer To Blame For High-Speed Crash?; Jeb Bush: "I Would Not Have Gone Into Iraq"; ISIS Head Calls For Recruits In New Message; Search Finds No Sign Of Marine Chopper. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 14, 2015 - 16:30   ET



DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): -- his neighbor in Queens, New York, says it's a job he loves.

MORESH KOYA, NEIGHBOR: He liked that. He was happy. He was happy with his job. That's all the conversation I had with him, very personable guy, very really nice, responsible. I never had a negative thought about him.

GRIFFIN: CNN has obtained the crew sheet for Train 188 including the conductor, Emilio Fanseco, hospitalized with a fractured skull. Akita Henry, assistant conductor and Tahiz Bryant, who ran the train's cafe car. A railroad employee told CNN the crew has been instructed by Amtrak not to talk to the media.


GRIFFIN: Jake, I just wrapped up an interview with a longtime flagman who worked with Brandon Bostian on this very route. He calls him a great engineer, safety conscious, no personal problems and an engineer who would know the speed limit on every inch of this route between Washington and New York.

His explanation -- he doesn't have one. He just can't see how this is possible that the engineer he knew is involved in this kind of a wreck.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Fascinating. Drew Griffin in Philadelphia, thank you so much.

The Politics Lead, four different answers to basically the same hypothetical question, would you invade Iraq knowing then what you know now? You'd think Jeb Bush of all people would have rehearsed his response well before this week, but does his answer even matter at this point? He's not even an official presidential candidate. That's next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Time now for the Politics Lead, today, potential presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, finally gave a full answer to a question he was asked Saturday, knowing then what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion of Iraq?


JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: If we're all supposed to answer hypothetical questions, knowing what we know now what would you have done, I would have not engaged, I would not have gone into Iraq.


TAPPER: So what took so long? Well, the former Florida governor has been offering differing answers to the same question for three days now. It's a question critics say he should have been prepared for. CNN's Dana Bash is live in New York. Dana, walk us through this.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, sources I'm talking to tell me that it has been abundantly clear to Jeb Bush's presidential campaign in waiting that they had to put his rhetorical stumble on Iraq to rest and there have been active internal debates on just how to do that. Today he gave it another try.


BASH (voice-over): Day four and a fourth attempt at answering the question, knowing what we know today, would he have invaded Iraq.

BUSH: If we're all supposed to answer hypothetical questions, knowing what we know now, what would you have done, I would have not engaged, I would have not gone into Iraq.

BASH: Jeb Bush offered that clarification without even being asked. Days of mixed messages about his Iraq position such a problem, it was actually being discussed on "The View" on the television right above him as he spoke in Arizona today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Between a rock and hard place.

BASH: The confusion stems from this on Fox Monday.

BUSH: So would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody.

BASH: This on Tuesday.

BUSH: Don't know what that decision would have been. That's a hypothetical.

BASH: And this on Wednesday --

BUSH: Given the, the power of looking back and having that, of course, anybody would have made different decisions.

BASH: Even Bush supporters scratched their heads, baffled that someone named Bush whose brother's legacy was marked by invading Iraq based on faulty intelligence was not better prepared to give his position. Sources close to Jeb say, it's hard for him to throw his

brother under the bus, which even he admitted.

BUSH: I don't go out of my way to disagree with my brother. I am loyal to him. I don't think it's necessary to go through every place where I disagree with him.

BASH: Jeb Bush's GOP opponents free of his family ties are eager to show they can finesse it especially Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush's protege.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not believe that if the intelligence had said Iraq does not have a weapon of mass destruction capability, I don't believe President Bush would have authorized to move forward.

BASH: More proof how hard it will be to run for president as a Bush, this confrontation with a Democratic activist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your brother created ISIS.

BUSH: All right, is that a question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't need to be pedantic to me, sir. You could just answer my question which is --

BUSH: What is the question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My question, why are you saying that ISIS was created by us not having a presence in the Middle East --

BUSH: Because by the time --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- when it's pointless wars where we send young men to die for the idea of American exceptionalism? Why are you spouting nationalist rhetoric to us involved in more wars?

BUSH: We respectfully disagree. We have a disagreement.


BASH: Now that activist seems to have gone to the event looking for a TV moment and she got one, but the fact that Jeb Bush engaged with her shows that he's accessible on the campaign trail, Jake, you'll agree, those in the press appreciate.

But on the key question, why wasn't he prepared to answer the predictable Iraq war question? A Bush advisor insists they did go over it with him. He had his answer down, but he got tripped up when he, in Jeb Bush's words, misheard the question knowing what you know now.

TAPPER: All right, Dana Bash, thank you so much. Let's talk about this moment with CNN Republican political commentators, S.E. Cupp and Kevin Madden.

And let me note, just so we can avoid it in our conversation, Dana was perhaps not so subtly referring to the fact Jeb Bush is at least out there taking questions unlike the only person running for president who actually voted to go to war in Iraq, Hillary Clinton. We look forward to the moment when Hillary Clinton will take questions from the press.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Been over three weeks.

TAPPER: Hopefully that will happen and absolutely full credit to the questions to the candidates who take credit -- take questions from reporters, but that said --


[16:40:01] TAPPER: Kevin, how much damage do you think Jeb Bush has done here flumping around for an answer?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, he's made an issue that was already going to be tough for him to handle, much tougher. I think what -- I think Dana's illusion to the fact that he should have been more prepared and he should have more clarity to his answer is one that I think even his supporters and detractors expected.

So to not have that level of clarity, not be able to speak very clearly on this, to spend a couple of days trying to clean it up, I think is definitely put them in a much more challenging position.

TAPPER: He made it a bigger issue.

MADDEN: Right, absolutely.

TAPPER: And then if he's given that answer early on. S.E., one of the things I found so interesting is that the harshest criticism out of the gate for Jeb Bush came from conservative commentators at least as far as I could tell.

Laura Ingraham, Byron York and I didn't know it was now accepted conservative pundit thought to say it was a mistake to go to war. That's where the American people have been for quite some time, but didn't know that was mainstream Republican thought?

CUPP: Well, I think a lot of Republicans came out pretty quickly after the Bush era ended with willing criticism of some of the mistakes, that included the bailouts, that included some economic mistakes. I think there's always been a willingness on the part of Republicans to criticize Bush honestly.

It's much harder for Jeb Bush to criticize George W. Bush honestly, and you know, Chris Christie has the luxury of not being burdened by those complexities and so he can go into an interview with you, answer two segments' worth of questions that were probably uncomfortable for him about his poll numbers and failures.

And he can say, I'll answer the question directly, because that's what I do. Jeb Bush understandably is going to have a tougher time. Kevin is right. He made it infinitely tougher. TAPPER: Kevin, some people say this is a looking backward question. I happen to disagree. I happen to think the country went through this, wanted to go to war in Iraq, a majority of the country, more than 70 percent.

That Congress voted to go to war in Iraq, the House and Senate, many Democrats including the current vice president and Secretary Clinton and now the country has misgivings. Do you think it's an unfair question? Is it media gotcha?

MADDEN: No, it's absolutely not an unfair question. It has to be expected. That's I think why so many are perplexed by the answer. Look, Iraq is still part of a question of what you do for our national security and foreign policy future, right?

But I think the big problem here is that Jeb Bush is put in a position of re-litigating decisions that he didn't make and he didn't implement just by virtue of legacy. That becomes problematic when he is trying to reassure people about what a future Bush administration might look like.

Because now he's spending all of his time, he spent the last three days, talking about the last Bush administration. He has to get, to win this nomination, he has to get on terrain that has him talking about what the future looks like under a new Bush administration. Again, he is still very burdened by that legacy. It is going to be a difficult challenge.

CUPP: No, I mean, that's absolutely true, but you know, not to break it to Jeb Bush, and every other candidate, the presidential campaign itself is about hypothetical questions entirely. Just because this was a hypothetical about the Iraq war, which his bro oversaw, very personal, doesn't mean you won't get a lot more hypothetical questions.

So get used to it. The problem on this question was, of course, it was so predictable. If you're going to ask Jeb Bush one question, it's this question. So you tell your comes team on day one, get cracking on that Iraq war question, because I bet it's coming.

MADDEN: He wants to be offering a contrast between the last eight years, of Obama, and instead he's just -- engaged in this round-about now re-litigating his brother's administration. That's just not very good of a place to be inside, even the primary.

CUPP: Hopefully that last answer shuts this down, because I think that was sufficient, clear, finally.

TAPPER: You're hoping for an exit strategy. S.E. Cupp, Kevin Madden, thank you both so much. Appreciate it as always. Good to see you.

Right now a desperate search for six U.S. Marines, their helicopter lost while helping earthquake victims in Nepal. Now striking images from devastated towns as CNN retraces their route.

Plus, did an air strike kill the second in command for ISIS and could the death really be a game-changer in the war against the terrorist group?



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Topping our World Lead, today, Iraqi security forces are claiming a coalition air strike took out ISIS' number two, a wanted terrorist with a $7 million bounty on his head.

This, as just moments ago, the reclusive head of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi releases a new audio message. Let's get right to CNN to CNN chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. Jim what can you tell us about this new recording from al-Baghdadi, some had suggested was recently injured?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, it gets right to that point. It seems to answer that question right away. Al-Baghdadi appears to be alive and if injured healthy enough to make new public threats, but it's the threat itself important here.

Because he is again calling on Muslims around the world including here in the U.S. to come to Syria or if they can't do that, to carry out attacks at home, and it's that threat that intelligence officials are most concerned about.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): In a new audio message, ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi make a threatening new appeal, calling on new recruits to join the group, or fight, quote, "in his land, or wherever they may be."

Heard for the first time in six months, Baghdadi references the Saudi air campaign in Yemen, which began on March 26th. Asadi survived an air strike, which Iraqi officials say he was wounded in in February.

Air strike, after devastating air strike, American officials say the U.S.-led air campaign is having a punishing effect on ISIS, its fighters and the U.S. says -- its leaders --

JEFF RATHKE, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: If you look at the extent of ISIL's reach, about a year ago, and look where it is now, you see it has been pushed back in many, many places.

[16:50:06] SCIUTTO: Now the Iraqi military says a coalition strike killed the second in command of the terror group, Abu Alaa al-Afri, whose roots in ISIS date back more than a decade. He has been a key U.S. target with $7 million bounty on his head. The Pentagon tells CNN it has no hard evidence that al-Afri is dead.

LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: There have been people burned in the past when they've said they've struck and destroyed a target or killed an individual and suddenly that individual pops back up somewhere else.

SCIUTTO: It is not clear, however, how seriously the death of a senior leader would change the equation on the battlefield. When Abu Masab Al-Zarkawi, the leader of ISIS' predecessor, Al Qaeda in Iraq was killed in 2006, the group he led survived, grew, and to this day controls large parts of Syria and Iraq. With ISIS as with all terror groups leadership does matter.

HERTLING: They control the operational tempo and the kind of design of the operation, especially in this organization which has key leaders from both terrorist background, but also from a military background.


SCIUTTO: I've spoken to U.S. officials and they say they have no reason to doubt that this is Baghdadi's voice on the new message and they reiterate that they had no reason to believe that Baghdad had been injured or incapacitated to leave him unable to run the terror group. That was coming from Iraqi officials. U.S. officials always said they doubted that.

TAPPER: All right, Jim Sciutto, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

It has been three days now, still no sign of six U.S. Marines lost in Nepal after an earthquake there. Why it's so difficult to track down their helicopter. That's next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Breaking news, top story, we now know the name of another one of the eight people killed in the Amtrak train crash disaster.

An Italian news agency is reporting the Italian national, Giuseppe Pilas, was killed in the train crash. We are expecting more new information about the crash and the investigation at the top of the hour when the NTSB scheduled a news conference, that will be in "THE SITUATION ROOM" in a few minutes.

To Nepal now where there is still no trace of the U.S. military helicopter that went missing in the mountains Tuesday while delivering humanitarian aid to the country's earthquake victims.

Six U.S. Marines were onboard the chopper including the pilot, 31-year-old Captain Chris Norgrin of Wichita, Kansas, whose father said, quote, "He's a survivor. That is the reason I know he will make it back."

Let's get right to CNN's Will Ripley, he joins us live from Nepal's capital, Kathmandu. Will, you flew over the search area in a helicopter. Describe the terrain for us. WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What struck me the most, Jake, was just how isolated these areas are. Isolated and also the land continues to move. We actually saw landslides happening as we were flying over. You could tell because of the dust clouds rising up. Difficult terrain, dip ravines and utter devastation.

We flew over some of these mountain villages that have almost 90 percent of their buildings destroyed. People in very dire straits and the landslides have cut off a lot of the main roads, Jake, which is why these helicopter missions are so vital.

TAPPER: Will, how is the search being conducted? What's the way that they're going about trying to find this missing helicopter?

RIPLEY: The United States is leading the search, but there are two other countries involved, India and Nepal, and they've divided the search zone into three sectors by air. They are flying literally from daybreak to sunset.

On the ground, there are also now 500 Nepali troops and also Special Forces that are working 24/7 trying to hike to the areas where the visual search might not be able to locate the helicopter.

TAPPER: Will, this might sound like a naive question, but one would think that a helicopter, a U.S. military helicopter, would have some sort of tracer device, a beacon, allowing U.S. officials to track its position?

RIPLEY: Yes. It's absolutely equipped with an emergency beacon and satellite phone, flares, other devices to allow crew members to signal if they are in distress, but because some of this terrain is so deep, ravines so cut off, even if a beacon was flipped on, the signal might bounce around on the inside of the ravine and not go out.

Why maybe they're having a hard time detecting it and can't understate the fact these landslides are continuing. A real possibility the helicopter could be buried. It's a tough situation right now.

TAPPER: All right, Will Ripley in Kathmandu, Nepal. Thank you so much.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jaketapper and also @theleadcnn. Check out our show page at for video, blogs, extras. You can also subscribe to our magazine on this thing called, "Flipboard."

That's it for THE LEAD today. I am Jake Tapper. I turn you now over to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer, who is right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM."