Return to Transcripts main page


NAACP Controversy; Manhunt; Presidential Polls; FBI Agent Attacked During ISIS Investigation; Interview with Congressman Michael McCaul of Texas; Report Accuses Dolezal of Misconduct. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired June 17, 2015 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:13] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Hillary Clinton's clear path to Democratic presidential nomination seems a little murkier today.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The politics lead, Jeb jammed with Jimmy, the Donald debuted in Des Moines, but, as Hillary Clinton swings into South Carolina, where the Clintons have a rocky history, a new poll shows some swing state voters say they just don't trust her.

The national lead. Police say there's no hard evidence two fugitive murderers are far gone yesterday. The search for Richard Matt and David Sweat is today expanding nationally and beyond. We will talk to the county district attorney about the latest leads in the investigation.

Also in national, the white woman who led an NAACP chapter and who claimed to be black now has something else to worry about. Minutes ago, Spokane's mayor charged her with ethics violations.

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

The politics lead. It is 94 degrees right now in North Charleston, South Carolina, where Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton just wrapped up her latest campaign event, but as the summer heat spikes, Clinton's campaign could already by wilting under the glaring spotlight.

A spate of new polls show a majority of swing state voters in Florida, in Ohio, and in Pennsylvania, three must-win battleground states in the general election, well, they do not trust Clinton. And while polls are not necessarily prologue, it is early, these numbers do show that there is potentially a very big problem for the Clinton campaign.

Our political team is live all over the map literally covering the campaigns.

Let's start with CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar. She's with the Clinton campaign in South Carolina today.

Brianna, in 2008, as we recall, Clinton got slaughtered in South Carolina by Barack Obama in that primary. It got really ugly. Clinton is there today pitching tax credits for businesses that hire apprentices, but today's poll numbers really again raising an alarm that her trustworthiness remains a concern among key voters.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. Many voters don't trust Hillary Clinton. That's what this poll is showing.

The campaign, though, I will tell you, is trying to make this more an issue of competence, saying that voters do trust her to serve them.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And fight back against those who would drive us apart. I will wage and win four fights for you.

KEILAR (voice-over): Hillary Clinton taking her buzzword, fight, to South Carolina, as she unveils a plan to jump-start youth employment.

CLINTON: It is win, win, win for everybody.

KEILAR: But new polls in key battleground states spell trouble for the Democratic front-runner; 51 percent of voters in Florida say Clinton is not honest and trustworthy in a Quinnipiac University poll. In Ohio, that number climbs to 53 percent and 54 percent in Pennsylvania, significant dips in public opinion of her trustworthiness since recent controversies over foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation and the revelation she used personal e-mail and a private server while secretary of state.

CLINTON: The server will remain private.

KEILAR: Publicly, Clinton's campaign manager denies there's a problem.

ROBBY MOOK, CAMPAIGN MANAGER, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: No poll shows that voters don't trust Hillary Clinton.

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS: They don't find her honest and trustworthy.

MOOK: Well, no poll says that.

KEILAR: But if voters question Clinton's ethics, campaign sources say their internal polling shows the majority of those surveyed say they do trust Hillary Clinton to fight for them. So Clinton is trying to address her vulnerability by casting herself as a fighter.

CLINTON: I will fight back against Republican efforts, and fight back against those who would drive us apart. I have spent my life fighting for children, families and our country.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The party now in the White House is planning a no-suspense primary.

KEILAR: The ever-expanding Republican field sees Clinton as beatable. In Pennsylvania, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio edge ahead of Clinton in hypothetical matchups. And as Clinton continues her tour of early voting states... BERNIE SANDERS (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Whoa. I think we're

going to have to knock down some walls there, get some more people in.

KEILAR: ... proof she doesn't have the Democratic field entirely to herself, as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders draws hundreds to his events in Iowa and New Hampshire.


KEILAR: And to that point, as you look at these live pictures of Hillary Clinton working the crowd here at Trident Technical College, following her remarks -- this is a trade school -- as she talks about boosting youth employment, I think her campaign, Jake, may be focused a little farther north, in the Granite State, in New Hampshire, a Suffolk University poll showing that Bernie Sanders is within 10 points of her there.

There's another poll that backs that up. So, it just goes to show you that there is this desire among Democrats for a progressive alternative to Hillary Clinton.


TAPPER: All right, Brianna Keilar in North Charleston, South Carolina, thank you so much.

Speaking of the Granite State, that 45-minute-plus presidential announcement speech that Donald Trump delivered was, yes, huge, but so was the impression he left on Facebook browsers. According to them, Trump made the biggest social media splash of any 2016 candidate not named Hillary Clinton.

Let's go now to the Granite State to CNN senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns, who is with Donald Trump in New Hampshire.

Joe, take a will be to something Trump said last night in Iowa, slamming two of his competitors.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I watched Jeb Bush yesterday. He can't even put on a tie and jacket. He's running for president.


TRUMP: Rubio. Rubio was really weak on immigration. His poll numbers plummeted, and, all of a sudden, he says, oh, I'm very strong on immigration.

Well, you know where he is. I think he's a highly rated person. And, by the way, I have better hair than he does, believe me. And it is my hair.



TAPPER: So, some interesting criticisms of his rivals there, Joe. Is this a taste of the next nine months to 10 years of Mr. Trump?


He's calling out Republicans sometimes in a very personal way, sometimes more on policy. He's asking questions like, how do you vote for this guy? Why can't he answer a question? How are these people going to lead? Is Bush intelligent?

So the real question here, is what kind of damage is Donald Trump doing? He has the ability to attract a lot of attention. And he could use that to push some top-tier candidates down into the second tier, which is a hard place to survive if you're trying to run a campaign and you're not self-financing.

Trump has already said he is self-financing. And he did announce his net worth at $8.7 billion. "Forbes" magazine says it's more like $4.1 billion, but that's a lot of money that the other candidates in this race don't have, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Joe Johns live in New Hampshire with the Trump campaign, thank you.

As Donald departs, Jeb Bush is jetting into Iowa today. He's already finished one meet-and-greet in Washington, Iowa, but with the latest "Des Moines Register" polling showing his favorability drowning with Hawkeye State conservatives, some political observers wonder whether Jeb is really just going through the motions in that state, while focusing his real attention on New Hampshire.

Let's bring in CNN chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

Dana, do you think that Jeb Bush is really trying to win Iowa, or is this more -- more like he is just doing it because he has to do it, but really he's focused on the Granite State?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He's doing it at this point because he feels like he has to do it.

And they absolutely will -- they will tell you 100 percent inside the Bush campaign that he has a much better shot at doing well in New Hampshire. It's more conducive to the kind of politics that he believes in.

But his -- one of his top advisers is David Kochel, who is a very well-known, a very well-plugged-in veteran in Iowa. He, I have heard from people in Iowa, is kind of wiring the place in case things are kind of chaotic at the end of the day. Perhaps he could come in, swoop in, and do better than people expect, which would change the whole game for...


TAPPER: Right. But one can win the Republican nomination even if you're lost Iowa.

BASH: Absolutely.

TAPPER: John McCain did it in 2008.

BASH: Yes.

TAPPER: Mitt Romney did it in 2012.

BASH: Absolutely.

TAPPER: Dana, I want to ask you, some very personal criticisms from Donald Trump against Jeb Bush, how is the Bush campaign taking this?

BASH: They're trying not to take it. In fact, Jeb Bush was asked a question today, a policy question about what Donald Trump said about building a fence, building a wall on the southern border, what does he think about that? And he basically just said, you know, no, I won't answer it. I don't think...


TAPPER: He's not going to answer the question?

BASH: Not that he wouldn't answer. He said, like, no, I won't. I don't agree with that. And then he moved on.

He's trying not to take the bait. Inside the Bush campaign, the questions, of course, I am sure other reporters were asking about the fact that Trump announced 24 hours after Bush, clearly trying to steal the spotlight -- he clearly has his sights, Trump, on Bush, in terms of him personally and on policy.

They're trying not to let Trump jolt them at all, but it's very hard, not just for Bush, but for all of these Republican candidates. I was talking to one yesterday who said, you know, the problem with -- for them, with Donald Trump in the race is that every time he says something wacky, everybody else is going to be asked about it. And it's going to take people off their game and off their message, never mind the whole Republican Party, which is trying to get away from things like what Trump said about Mexicans coming over the border being rapists and so forth.


Bush trying to do something different. He went on "Jimmy Fallon," slow-jamming the news. Mitt Romney did that in the past. Barack Obama did that. It's kind of like a mainstream candidate kind of thing to do.

BASH: Yes. It is.

And for somebody who is a self-described introvert, it was interesting to see him on stage with Jimmy Fallon slow-jamming the news, making jokes about "Fifty Shades of Grey" and other things that you wouldn't expect him to talk about.



BASH: There were some cringe-worthy moments, but for the most part he sort of got through it; 1.5 million viewers in the lower demographic that all of us in TV know about that Jimmy Fallon gets on average, that's critical for somebody like Jeb Bush trying to get younger voters.

TAPPER: Yes, indeed.

Dana Bash, thank you so much.

BASH: Thank you.

TAPPER: In our national lead: an FBI agent attacked today with a knife while searching a home. And the search was related to the recent arrest of a 20-year-old American college student who was allegedly plotting to detonate a bomb in New York City -- that story next.


TAPPER: We have breaking news in our national lead today.

An FBI agent was attacked with a knife today while searching the home of a suspected ISIS sympathizer in Staten Island, New York. The search was connected, we're told, to Saturday's arrest of 20-year-old Munther Omar Saleh, accused of plotting to detonate a pressure cooker bomb on the George Washington Bridge, which connects New Jersey to Manhattan.

[16:15:08] Let's get right to CNN justice reporter Evan Perez for the latest on this violent confrontation.

First of all, Evan, is the FBI agent OK? What happened?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he was not -- he was not injured seriously in this attack, Jake. The suspect's name is Fareed Mumuni. He's 21 years old. He's from Staten Island.

As you said, agents were in this house in Staten Island to try to do a search, did not plan to arrest him just yet. And he attacked agents as they entered the house with this very large kitchen knife, stabbed this agent repeatedly. Actually, the agent's vest was protruded by the knife, but there was no serious injury.

We are told that Mumuni was planning to travel to Syria to join ISIS. He's an ISIS supporter. He waived his Miranda rights and told agents a lot about what he had been up to, including his relationship with the young man you just saw on the screen, whose name is Munther Saleh.

TAPPER: That was the guy arrested Saturday, we found out about the arrest yesterday. PEREZ: These two and a couple others we are told were part of this

plot, which was to detonate, they were researching how to make pressure cooker bombs, the same type of bombs that was used in the Boston marathon bombing. And the plan was, if they couldn't carry that out when they noticed they were being watched by cops, they decided that they were going to try to attack cops with knives.

He had one knife in his house. He had another one in his mother's car, according to the affidavit that was posted by the FBI today.

TAPPER: Quickly if you could, Evan, the young man that was arrested on Saturday, we found out about yesterday, he was studying electrical circuitry.

Do authorities think that he actually could have carried it out, this pressure cooker bomb attack?

PEREZ: They do believe that he had -- based on what he was researching, the information he was gathering, he was going to be able to build a bomb and was able to carry this out if they didn't stop him.

TAPPER: All right. Well, thank you so much. Appreciate it, Evan Perez.

Joining me now to talk about the ISIS terror threat is Congressman Michael McCaul. He's chair of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Congressman, thank you so much for being here.


TAPPER: What can you tell us about this attack on the FBI agent today?

MCCAUL: It's part of a conspiracy. We arrested an individual the other day connected to this plot regarding an IED, going up for the bridge. Now this is the second co-conspirator. There's another one that we possibly think is out there as well.

This is kind of the new phenomenon over the Internet. The terrorists now have a new generation adopting to the Internet to not only recruit, train, teach how to make in this case pressure cooker bombs, but also give directives over Twitter accounts to thousands of Americans who are already here in the United States.

When I talked to Homeland and FBI officials, as I did this morning, they consider this internet terrorism gone viral to be now one of the biggest threats to the homeland.

TAPPER: Tell us more about the dark space of the Internet which you were briefed on earlier today, the way that people are able to communicate with each other on the Internet in places that law enforcement doesn't know about or can't get to.

What exactly is the challenge here?

MCCAUL: Well, the challenge is that we know that terrorists out of ISIS are now communicating with potential terrorists in the United States over the Internet in a dark space, in a secured com platform that law enforcement, FBI, homeland can't get access to.

Even if we had a court order, wiretap, we still cannot see these communications. So, they're operating in darkness. It's really imperative that we fix the system to shine the light on the terrorists and their communications. Otherwise, I think Americans are very vulnerable today with these communications going on in dark space.

That is a great challenge right now. We've been very fortunate, Jake, to stop the Garland attacks, stop this guy in Arizona, aspirational goals against the Super Bowl, Boston with the police officer, and now, most recently in New York.

But I believe as we approach the Fourth of July, we'll probably see a lot more of these attacks, small scale, ramping up.

TAPPER: Congressman, how many Islamic extremists or suspected extremists do you think the FBI and law enforcement agencies are tracking right now? Dozens? Hundreds? Is it actually different than it's been since 9/11?

MCCAUL: It's very different. Core al Qaeda had very spectacular attacks, very long term range attacks. ISIS is very high volume over the Internet trying to activate people in the United States, small scale attacks.

We also have the foreign fighters, hundreds of Americans who traveled to the region, many have come back. And we have about 30,000 foreign fighters, 5,000 western passports.

[16:20:03] So, that's a concern from the foreign fighters standpoint.

But this new phenomenon, this new threat of terrorism, Jake, is what I think has really got officials worried the most because, you know, with a Twitter account, I know I have five teenagers, you can activate thousands of people on these Twitter accounts.

That's precisely what they have done. They have thousands of followers already in the United States and there are calls to arm from Syria to the United States to activate and attack military installations, you know, attack police officers, and in this case, the bridge in New York, very, very dangerous.

TAPPER: All right. Congressman Michael McCaul, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, the firestorm over Rachel's race. There are some breaking developments, an ethics complains about Rachel Dolezal's work with the city of Spokane.

And the manhunt for two murderous fugitives expands, and so did the question about what a prison worker's husband did and did not know about the possible affair and the plot to kill him.


[16:25:29] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

In our national lead, there seems to be no clear end in sight to the Rachel Dolezal saga. Breaking news just in, an investigation finished today has found that Dolezal acted inappropriately while serving as a chairwoman on a police oversight commission in Spokane, Washington. This latest comes on the heels of the family drama surrounding the Dolezals.

Suzanne Malveaux joins us now with much, much more -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, as you mentioned. We do have some breaking news. This is going to happen in 10 minutes. There's going to be a pretty conference out of the Spokane City Hall. There, we're going to see the mayor, David Condon, and city council president, and they're going to announce this independent investigation has found that Dolezal in her capacity as a volunteer member of the Police Ombudsman Commission acted inappropriately according to that report.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): New revelations from Rachel Dolezal continue to drive the national conversation and social media firestorm over racial identity.

RACHEL DOLEZAL, FORMER NAACP LEADER: I definitely am not white. Nothing about being white describes who I am.

MALVEAUX: Describing herself as black, Dolezal is now challenging her white parents to prove that her birth certificate is legitimate.

R. DOLEZAL: I haven't had a DNA test. There's been no biological proof that Larry and Ruthanne are my biological parents.

MALVEAUX: Dolezal's parents are now taking a break from the spotlight, releasing a statement instead, saying in part, that "We hope and pay for a continuing global conversation on the issues of identity and integrity, which will resolve in the recognition that truth is a kindness."

Dolezal says she's already through with them.

R. DOLEZAL: What I say to them is, you know, I don't give two (EXPLETIVE DELETED) what you guys think, you know? You're so far done and out of my life.

MALVEAUX: Ezra, Dolezal's adopted black brother, says it's come to this, because Rachel feels trapped.

EZRA DOLEZAL, RACHEL DOLEZAL'S BROTHER: She's too nervous to just admit that she's not been telling the truth, which is why she keeps on making up more and more lies to help fit the story. MALVEAUX: Dolezal now admits there are some things she said that were

not true, like being born in a teepee and going to South Africa.

DOLEZAL: That is definitely a misrepresentation that I will own. I have never been to South Africa. And, yes, I wasn't whipped, but I was physically abused.

MALVEAUX: An accusation Dolezal's parents vehemently deny.

Dolezal is now also talking about her sexual identity and the comparisons some have made between transracial and transgender.

DOLEZAL: And I'm bisexual. And so, you know, I dated men and women, finally had a chance to read Caitlyn Jenner's piece, you know, in the magazine, and really just -- I cried. I cried, because I resonated with some of the themes of isolation, of being misunderstood.

MALVEAUX: But what now from all those years as a civil rights activist and former NAACP leader?

Participating recently at a Black Lives Matter rally in Baltimore, and in this lengthy interview last years addressing the burdens and stereotypes that come with being a minority.

DOLEZAL: You're on display whenever in public, so the only place is you get a break from that is at home.


MALVEAUX: Again, Dolezal is struggling to maintain her support and credibility within the Spokane community. The NAACP has come to her defense, but again, we're talking about this independent investigation that began May 4th before it was revealed she was white, which is looking into whether or not she was adequately neutral in her position to essentially police the police, and also accusing her of not being able to put away her biases as head of the NAACP.

So, Jake, what's itinerating, I do have this report, is that she became the Spokane member of this police commission before she became the head of the NAACP, the local head. So, afterwards, they feel that because of that position, she was not ability to adequately and objectively do her job in policing the police as a citizen of that community.

TAPPER: Lots of questions.


TAPPER: Suzanne, thank you so much.

In other national news today, the New York prison escape investigation is now taking a new tern. Sources says investigators are looking at other prison employees who might have helped the two killers escape.

Plus, were other prisoners able to create a diversion that distracted the guards? The district attorney of Clinton County answers those questions for us, coming up next.