Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Donald Trump Running for President; Former NAACP Leader Speaks Out; Manhunt; Top Al Qaeda Leaders Killed in U.S. Airstrikes; Tropical Storm Bill: Heavy Rains and Flooding Expected; FBI Investigating St. Louis Cardinals for Hacking Rival Team Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired June 16, 2015 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:10]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: What a day. Tropical Storm Bill hitting Texas, Hurricane Donald hitting the Republican presidential contest.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The national lead, 870 tips have come in, but they have turned up nothing. The 10-day door-to-door hunt for two murderers on the lam have only found frustration. Now the seamstress who allegedly helped spring the sociopaths from prison gets a visit in her jail cell from her husband, just hours after sources tell CNN she planned to have him murdered.

Also in national, former NAACP chapter president Rachel Dolezal finally taking questions about why she, a white woman, conned the world into thinking she's black.

The politics lead. Everything he does is designed to make a grandiose statement, the deals, the hotels, the reality show, and his presidential announcement speech was no exception, the Donald jumping in, for real this time, even taking a shot at Jeb Bush's intelligence.

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

The prison seamstress arrested for her connection to that elaborate escape plot got a jailhouse visit from her husband today, this despite the fact that not only was she allegedly cheating on him, today's sources now confirming to CNN that, yes, the relationship between Joyce Mitchell and Richard Matt was sexual, but also Matt and his accomplice intended to kill her husband after she helped secure their freedom.

It's been 10 days since Richard Matt and David Sweat escaped from that New York prison, and all the searching since seems to have sadly been for naughts. Many of the towns dotting Route 374 in New York look like one giant active crime scene, but a deluge of agents and canines has brought police no closer to finding Matt and Sweat.

And even assuming they did not jump a freight train or steal a car, the killers by now could be far, far away from where they escaped. Conservatively, let's say these two fugitives cover three miles of ground every hour, and that they have been on the move for 10 hours a day or night.

That would mean that after the first day, they could have gone 30 miles in any direction. After five days, that would be 150 miles. Now, 10 days in, they could be 300 miles away from Dannemora, New York.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is live in New York.

Polo, Joyce Mitchell's husband paid her a visit in jail this morning, and we also heard from her attorney. What did he have to say?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, Joyce Mitchell's attorney saying that his client is clearly distraught by this all. He also suggested that she could possibly be relocated from the Clinton County jail at this moment, given the sheer amount of attention on this case, but, first, a sign of support from an unlikely but familiar face.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Accused prison escape accomplice Joyce Mitchell's first jailhouse visit came from her husband, Lyle. The Clinton County sheriff confirms the two spent an hour speaking over a phone Tuesday morning separated by a glass wall. Joyce was described as being -- quote -- "comforted" by her husband's support.

STEPHEN JOHNSTON, ATTORNEY FOR JOYCE MITCHELL: As of late yesterday, she was pretty distraught. All I know is that he said that he's standing by her, so that's what he told me when I spoke to him.

SANDOVAL (on camera): And she will be transferred to another jail?

JOHNSTON: That's what I was told by the sheriff late morning today, It may be happening now.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): The visit coming as authorities investigate Lyle as well. They still can't say for sure if he played a role in the plot to help inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat escape. Sources tell CNN the two convicted killers also planned to kill Lyle after the elaborate escape.

That's a claim the New York State Police and prosecutors have yet to confirm. Back in the search area, the trail for the escaped killers gets colder by the day.

DAVID FAVRO, CLINTON COUNTY SHERIFF: As of right now, there's not a lot of new information. There hasn't been a lot of physical information indicating whether they're here or whether they're outside the area.

SANDOVAL: Despite the efforts of nearly 800 officers and even more potential leads, no solid break in the case. Both Matt and Sweat seem to have vanished into thin air, eluding authorities and surprising their families.

PAMELA SWEAT, MOTHER OF DAVID SWEAT: He never said nothing about taking off or anything. And then, all of a sudden, over the last two months, he quit writing.

SANDOVAL: An extended family member Richard Matt's spoke to CNN over the phone asking to remain anonymous. They claim they had no contact with Matt before the prison break. They're expressing disappointment, saying -- quote -- "He was doing good in honor block, but please turn himself in and do the right thing. We don't want anyone to get hurt."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANDOVAL: And back in the search zone here, we're told that we can soon expect to see a significant reduction in law enforcement presence.

However, authorities here do say that people who live in some of the towns here in Upstate New York can still expect to see officers continuing to search, really just monitoring the situation, Jake. What is still unsure, exactly when that could happen -- Jake.

TAPPER: It's also distressing.

Polo Sandoval, thanks so much.

Let's talk more about this hunch with the former head of the Northeast Fugitive Investigation Division for the U.S. Marshals Service, John Cuff joining me now live from New York.

[16:05:05]

Mr. Cuff, thanks for joining us.

Last week, it looked as though law enforcement was closing in. There was even a time we thought it was just hours away, but now people are pulling out. How does a trail just go cold?

JOHN CUFF, RETIRED U.S. MARSHAL: Well, Jake, on most of these major manhunts -- we have been on quite a few of them over the years, hundreds, in fact -- these cases from the onset take two different directions, parallel directions.

In the beginning, you have a fugitive investigation which starts in the jail. OK? That's going to encompass any and all information about these two prisoners, for example, their personal effects left behind in the jail, jail visit records, jail phone calls, inmate intelligence, information that the internal affairs folks might have, the possibility that they were accessing prisoner computers and things of that nature, to include going back into their criminal background, OK, so all associates on the outside.

Those leads are being developed, and that appears to be transparent right now to the public, OK? But you can rest assured leads will come out of that. However, with the manhunt that's going on, that's the hand that you were dealt, so you have to play this out. The search is very important. You can't rule out the fact that they are not up in the mountains.

And like on your lead-in with the amount of travel and the speculation of how many miles they could have got, that's very, very realistic, so that's why the public needs to be vigilant on their phone calls, out of anything out of the ordinary. Now...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I'm sorry to interrupt.

CUFF: That's all right.

TAPPER: But do you think, sir, that at this point it's likely that they're still on foot or do you think 10 days in they have probably secured a car by now? They're hardened. They know how to steal a car, one assumes.

CUFF: Well, there's nothing to suggest otherwise. OK? You have to go with what you have.

However, these are criminals, OK? They're going to rely on what they know best. So, there's been no reports of any carjackings, any break- ins, things of that nature. That's not to say that they might not be holding someone at bay in a house somewhere where they can't get to a phone. And that's equally important, why the public needs to look out for their neighbors, their relatives, the safety and the concerns of them.

And you can't -- the absence of anything productive being developed in this search, OK, can suggest, possibly suggest that there was a plan B. It's obvious that they played this woman, OK? Could they have had an alternate getaway car there? That's possible, and that will bear out in a future investigation.

TAPPER: Let's be honest, though. I know the U.S. Marshals are great. They do an amazing job. But it's entirely within the realm of possibility that these guys are gone with the wind, right?

CUFF: They may be gone, but we will catch up to them. The fugitive investigation is going to yield results.

Not only that, the mistakes that these guys make, invariably, all these -- you have got to keep in mind these are institutionalized guys. The one -- Matt's been down for about 20 years. Sweat's been in for roughly 13 or so. These guys, much like -- it's hard enough for a parolee to adapt on the outside.

When you come crawling out of a manhole, and it's your first breath of fresh air, they're going to have a hard time adapting. So, going in the wind, they may very well have had a plan B when they got out. OK? But law enforcement's fugitive investigation will yield results, along -- coupled with the fact that they will make a mistake.

TAPPER: Right.

CUFF: That's why it's so important that the public stay tuned in on this with a heightened level of awareness.

TAPPER: We had the head of the -- the director of the U.S. Marshals Service on the show last week. She says it's rather unusual actually for somebody in prison, an employee to help prisoners escape, but it's not unheard of.

How does a prisoner like Matt or Sweat, how does he convince a prison employee to help him escape? How does that happen?

CUFF: Well, typically, in my experience, we have seen this a number of times, where he will cultivate.

In other words, he will prey on a weakness of a staff employee. In fact, over the years, we have made cases against staff employees in institutions, but they will prey on a weakness or a vulnerability. Could start out as something as simple as smuggling in a steak sandwich or something along that line.

And then it gradually evolves into something else. And when it reaches the level of contraband, OK, then the prisoners -- this is an issue for psychologists, but they will have ownership, psychological ownership, because that person knows good from bad, OK? She knows that she crossed the line.

And then once they have ownership of her, she will bring it to -- they will bring it to another level, because they have a goal. In this case, their goal is to escape successfully. So, they will use and manipulate anyone they can to get to that goal.

TAPPER: Yes. Sounds like they got to their goal.

John Cuff, formerly of the U.S. Marshals Service, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

CUFF: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: In our world lead today, an airstrike takes out one of the most dangerous terrorists in the world, the government says. And while his death is being called the biggest blow against al Qaeda since the death of bin Laden, well, his successor is no amateur -- that story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:14:17]

TAPPER: Breaking news. Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We have some breaking news in our world lead today, another American just charged with trying to provide material support to the terrorist group ISIS.

Let's get right to CNN's Barbara Starr. She's live at the Pentagon.

Barbara, what can you tell us about this 20-year-old just arrested?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, according to an unsealed criminal complaint in a New York federal court, 20-year- old Munther Omar Saleh, a man from Queens, was arrested on Saturday for providing -- allegations of providing material support to ISIS.

He apparently had a plan of some sort to detonate an explosive device in New York and was arrested when he apparently, according to the complaint, ran towards a law enforcement vehicle that was conducting surveillance on him.

[16:15:00] Officials here are saying potentially expect more arrests in this case -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Barbara, this, of course, comes after back to back terror strikes taking out two top al Qaeda leaders counterterrorism strikes, I should say. One in Yemen, the other was in Libya. Nasser al-Wuhayshi is head of AQAP in Yemen, Mokhtar Belmokhtar in Libya. He was responsible for the 2013 attack on a gas plant in Africa where 37 hostages were killed, including three Americans.

Do you think this is a sign that U.S. intelligence on terrorist groups, al Qaeda's different branches all over, that that intel is improving?

STARR: Well, it really is fascinating, isn't it? Look at this, Libya and Yemen, two countries where the U.S. has not had a presence on the ground for months, and yet success. You raised the question, Jake -- how does it all happen?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): When al Qaeda in Yemen announced a new leader, it was one of the final pieces of information confirming to the Obama administration it had killed Nasser al Wuhayshi in a drone strike several days earlier, just the latest success in a series of high profile strikes against al Qaeda and ISIS. Luck or hard work?

SETH JONES, RAND CORPORATION: I think there's no question that the vast majority of the explanation for the targeting range of individuals including Wuhayshi is very, very hard intelligence work.

STARR: How does the CIA and the Pentagon pull it off?

JONES: One is through running a range of spies within these countries that collect information on the movement of individuals. A second is the collection of electronic information.

STARR: Another top target, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the leader of al Qaeda in North Africa, targeted this week by F-15, dropping 500-pound bombs on a compound in eastern Libya. The U.S. have looked for him for years.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: It appears that he got sloppy. That he moved in a way that he could be tracked.

STARR: And that means classified high-tech gear.

Electronic eavesdropping on cell phones and monitoring social media by the intelligence community is at an all time high. Drones and satellites are often called in. Some equipped with full motion video -- key to making that final decision to strike.

JONES: You can watch a compound for hours and hours, days and days, weeks and weeks.

STARR: Consider the delta force raid into Syria that killed Abu Sayyaf, a top ISIS operative. A woman who escaped from his house provided the initial tip. Then, the U.S. spied on him for months watching and waiting for the right time to strike. Luck and hard work.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Now, some missions do fail. You'll recall several months ago, the U.S. tried to rescue American hostages being held by ISIS inside Syria. They had a tip, by the time they got to the site, the hostages had already been moved. One of the real challenges the U.S. has is getting good enough intelligence and then being able to move faster than ISIS or al Qaeda do -- Jake.

TAPPER: Barbara Starr live from the Pentagon for us -- thank you so much.

Coming up a massive wall of water, Tropical Storm Bill making landfall in Texas, some areas are already experiencing even more severe flooding. How much more can they take?

Plus, Major League espionage? The FBI investigating whether the St. Louis Cardinals hacked into a rival team's computers to steal secrets. Was this ultimately about information or revenge? That story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:23:17] TAPPER: Welcome back.

In our national lead: something waterlogged Texas really didn't need, the state has been slammed by Tropical Storm Bill which made landfall on to the Matagorda Island a short while ago and is planning a slow march through Texas the rest of the afternoon. The main concern now, authorities say, is even more flooding.

Sara Sidner joining us now from Seabrook, Texas, near Houston -- Sara.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, normally, you would see a boat and water, no big deal, that's a parking lot, there's a foot and a half of water there, and these young ladies have come over from across the state, because right now, this is the only safe place to kayak. It's a very low lying area, it was a parking lot.

There are homes here as you can see, a lot of the homes around here, though, near the Galveston Bay where we are. The Galveston Bay on our right, and to our left over there, that is the estuary. So, basically what's happening here, it's in a low lying area, it's flooded here The water has gone into the garages, anyone who has perishable things into the garage. They're going to have some trouble.

A lot of folks know because of where they are that when there's a weather event, they're probably going to have to clean out that garage. Most folks live upstairs. This is an area that's used to getting bad weather. But they said the last time they remember it being terrible is Hurricane Ike. This is nothing, nowhere even close to that. Most folks are taking this in stride.

Tomorrow, though, they're expecting some more rain. So, we'll wait for that. So far, so good, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Sara, I mean, I see you walking around that water, sometimes when there's flooding, areas can be dangerous to walk around, because of downed electrical lines. I'm assuming that's not the case where you are right now?

[16:25:02] SIDNER: No, it's interesting. You know, you're getting the bands, the normal bands that come through of water and of wind. But, really, it hasn't been that bad, it hasn't been strong enough, for example, to knock anything down, we haven't noticed downed trees here. We haven't noticed downed power lines.

The folks have been walking through this water taking their dogs out and letting them run around a bit. And we've noticed water receding quite a bit. It was about a foot and a half in -- sort of over there near those houses, now down to half a foot.

So, you're seeing things change a bit for the better here, the folks here are pretty confident that this isn't going to be as bad as they thought it might -- Jake.

TAPPER: Well, let's hope not. Sara Sidner in Seabrook near Houston, thank you so much.

Let's turn to our sports lead today. You play to win the game, but you are supposed to settle it on the field. Now, however, the FBI is trying to figure out if the St. Louis Cardinals broke the law by hacking into a rival team's computers and stealing information -- so much for the Cardinal way, I suppose.

Let's get right to CNN justice reporter Evan Perez.

Evan, as "The New York Times", reported investigators say that the Cardinals front office raided an internal network belonging to the Houston Astros. Is it clear what the FBI specifically thinks, St. Louis, the Cardinals were after?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, you know, what's interesting here is the time that this allegedly occurred. The Astros were one of the worst teams in baseball, and the Cardinals are one of the best. And so, what appears to be happening was that because the Astros were so bad, they had a lot of up and coming prospects that were valuable to that franchise, and also, at the time, to the Cardinals, because they wanted to know what this up and coming franchise could be up to.

So, this was a database called ground control that was developed by Jeff Luhnow, who is now the general manager of the Astros. He worked for the Cardinals before he took this job. TAPPER: And what prompted the FBI to look -- because they're not

normally looking into what the St. Louis Cardinals are doing on their computer.

PEREZ: Right, exactly. Well, what happened was some of this data was showed up, published by the Web site Deadspin last year. And so, that is what got the FBI's attention. The Astros reported it to the FBI and the FBI's been at it and has figured out that what appears to have happened is someone at the Cardinals simply tried some of the passwords that Jeff Luhnow used when he worked over there at the Cardinals organization.

TAPPER: Interesting. I guess we'll find out more about is this. Evan Perez, thank you so much.

Our politics lead, the Donald's announcement. He answered the big question. He is running, but now he's getting this question --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But Mr. Trump, you're not a nice person. How can you get people to vote for you?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: His answer when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)