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Hillary on the Attack; Mexican Manhunt; President Obama Issues Pardons; Clinton Blasts GOP Foes in Economic Speech; Scott Walker Joins GOP Presidential Scrum. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 13, 2015 - 16:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: A Boston cop's son busted for an alleged terror plot.

I'm John Berman. And this is THE LEAD.

The national lead, he allegedly wanted to pull off a Boston Marathon- style attack on a college campus in the name of ISIS, complete with guns and a pressure cooker, and ending with the public execution of students. All that, and he's a police captain's son. New details on one of most shocking ISIS-related arrests in the U.S. to date.

Also in national news, President Obama makes a major statement in his effort to reform the U.S. criminal justice system, granting clemency to nearly 50 prisoners all at once -- why the president said the punishments did not fit the crimes.

And the world lead, a guy who didn't wait for clemency, one of the most notorious billionaire drug lords in the world escaping through a tunnel that is being called an engineering masterpiece. He is now on the run, again -- the latest on the hunt for El Chapo.

Welcome to THE LEAD, everyone. I'm John Berman, in today for Jake Tapper.

Instead of going to class, the son of a Boston police captain wanted to blow up college kids in campus cafeterias, and then gun down those who survived the explosions, all while broadcasting the carnage to the world on the Internet. And he wanted to do it all for ISIS. That is according to court documents that allege a 23-year-old Massachusetts man planned to do this all.

Officials with the FBI and ATF put the shackles on Alexander Ciccolo right as he took delivery of a weapons cache, including an AR-15 rifle.

Let's get right to CNN's Alexandra Field, who has been working this story.

Alexandra is with me here now.

What do we know?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, authorities had been watching this plan. He had been planning and plotting, they say.

And, ultimately, they stopped him once the weapons arrived at his doorstep. This is a man who obtained four different firearms. And authorities say that after they intercepted that delivery, arresting him after the delivery was made, they went. They executed their searches.

They found that he had also been working on Molotov cocktails. Beyond that, he had purchased a pressure cooker, which of course significant, because that is what was used during the Boston Marathon bombings, pressure cooker. There's a lot of references to the Tsarnaev brothers who carried out those marathon bombing attacks throughout the court documents.

In it, there's an excerpt from the defendant and he's speaking to a cooperating witness, and he talks about how you build one of these bombs. He actually said you take a pressure cooker, fill it up with black powder, you fill it up with ball bearings, nails, glass, rocks.

And then he goes on over a period of time to continue speaking with this cooperating witness. Authorities say that's when he lays out his plans for this attack, which he hoped to carry out before the end of July. In it, he says the attack would be concentrated in the college dorms and cafeteria and would include executions of students broadcast live via the Internet.

Again, John, this is a case where authorities had been watching this young man. They had been keeping their eye on him because, in part, his father, a Boston police captain, had let them know about concerning comments that he had been making. He is somebody who had claimed allegiance to ISIS, said he wanted to carry an attack in support of ISIS.

We need to note here and make it very clear those close to this young man say he had suffered from mental illness for a very long time. He had been in and out of treatment facilities since he was 7. It appears that he had become estranged from his father in his late teenage years, but it does seem that his father was integral here in alerting authorities to the possibility of what he was preparing for.

BERMAN: Again, tipped off by the father who was a Boston -- or is a Boston police cop, also a history of mental illness. A lot more to discuss. We're going to get to that in a second.

Alexandra Field, thank you so much.

There's another story concerning ISIS right now on the other side of the world, taking the battle directly to ISIS. The Iraqi army says it has launched a large-scale military operation to retake the western province of Anbar from the terror group. ISIS began his campaign to take over Anbar last year. In May, the group had captured the key city of Ramadi.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has more details on this for us.

Hello, Barbara.


Well, now there have been 29 U.S. and coalition airstrikes over Ramadi in the last day or so, 29 airstrikes, but does that mean the battle is on? Not so fast.


STARR (voice-over): In the not-so-friendly skies over the declared ISIS capital, Raqqa in Syria, the U.S.-led coalition found it had unwelcome company. On Saturday, for the first time, the coalition says Syrian warplanes conducted airstrikes over Raqqa at the same time coalition warplanes were bombing bridges just four miles away, worry the air campaign just got even more dangerous.


COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: Since there's no coordination, the risk of a crash or some other incident, including firing on each other, could definitely occur. And that is one of the biggest issues that we would have flying over Syria.

STARR: Raqqa is very much in the USS crosshairs. The working theory is that Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, may be nearby. U.S. officials tell CNN they are also trying to confirm a top leader of an al Qaeda affiliate was killed in a recent strike in Syria.

It comes as Iraq says it has begun operations to recapture Anbar province west of Baghdad, the ISIS stronghold in Iraq. U.S. officials say full-blown combat has yet to begin.

Shia militias are already moving east towards Fallujah, an attempt to freeze ISIS in place there. If it works, the plan then calls for Iraqi forces to move west towards Ramadi from Taqaddum Air Base. But two months after Iraqi forces ran for Ramadi, ISIS threatens their ability to get it back.

LEIGHTON: First and foremost, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, these are basically car bombs and truck bombs, and those could wreak huge havoc on militia forces and Iraqi regular forces that would go into a place like Ramadi.


STARR: But here may be the most telling thing. The Pentagon says it's absolutely essential the Iraqis get Ramadi back, but they will make no predictions about when the Iraqis may actually get moving to do that -- John.

BERMAN: Yes. And then no one knows how they will perform on the battlefield once they do go face to face with ISIS.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us, thanks so much. Joining me now from Washington with more on all of this, CNN national

security commentator and former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers.

Mike, thanks so much for being with us.

I want as to talk first about this story we just got about Massachusetts, the son of a cop arrested by federal officials because he was planning to carry out some horrific crime on college campuses with a pressure cooker, blowing up it in a campus cafeteria and then opening fire.

We just got a statement from the family of Alexander Ciccolo. It reads: "While we were saddened and disappointed to learn of our son's intentions, we are grateful that authorities were able to prevent any loss of life or harm to others. At this time, we would ask that the public and the media recognize our grief and respect our desire for privacy."

It's interesting, Mike, that this man's father, this young man's father, a Boston cop, tipped off authorities that he was concerned about the son. What do you fear might have happened had he not said anything?


Because the father cooperated early on in the investigation and pointed out his son's erratic behavior, they were able to work in, they being the FBI, a confidential informant, somebody that could get close to this individual, gain his trust, and then try to elicit what his intentions were, and clearly those intentions were real and serious.

Without that first phase, God only knows, this could be a very, very different story about a mass shooting at a college or university with lots of casualties, unfortunately.

BERMAN: It is clear we're being told this man did have a long history of mental illness, but this is a case not but he had mental illness. It's probably a case of and he had mental illness.

ISIS preys on people who are troubled, who are seeking answers outside the realm of reason.

ROGERS: Oh, absolutely.

This is the exact profile of somebody that they are trying to reach. Clearly, he had been influenced by ISIS ideology and certainly propaganda. He had talked about a pressure cooker. They have been talking about schooling people in the West about how to use a pressure cooker for years.

He clearly had at least touched that. He was inspired by the mass shootings in Tunisia. He thought that that was a powerful way to have a terrorist event like this, when they went down the beach just shooting people indiscriminately. So, he combined both of those efforts in trying to pull off this

terrorist attack. So, yes, that profile of him being -- having mental illness, being a little estranged from his family is the perfect fit for them trying to inspire some of these folks to do something like this.

BERMAN: And we don't know yet if he had direct contact with anyone from ISIS or anyone overseas, but that doesn't matter to an extent, if he was inspired by the rhetoric that is so available online.

ROGERS: Oh, exactly.

This is why they do it, John. This is why they have such an effort in propaganda in the United States and Europe and other places. And it really started back in Australia.


If you remember, they were encouraging people not to come to Syria to fight, but to take matters in their own hands in Australia, get knives, cut people's heads off, randomly kidnap them, cut their heads off, and put it on video. This is clearly what their message has been over time, and it's working.

And that's why the FBI had these 10 arrests very recently. This particular arrest, the shooting in Boston was all related to their propaganda campaign to influence these individuals to take the next step and commit an act of terror. That's what's so concerning about it and they're very effective about it.

BERMAN: All the way around the world right now, the Iraqi Defense Ministry claims that there's an offensive being launched against ISIS in Iraq. They're trying to take back Fallujah, maybe ultimately Ramadi, and the rest of Anbar province.

How much confidence do you have, based on what you know right now, that this will be successful?

ROGERS: This is so far from an offensive action.

what they're doing is positioning soldiers around Fallujah to see if they can keep the fighters in Fallujah while they position people to go in and take Ramadi and the outposts around Ramadi from ISIS. This is a long way from an offensive, very few direct attacks.

You're not seeing real combat action by these troops. This could take days, it could be weeks, it could be months. And given their past performance, you have to be a little bit skeptical. I'm optimistic if they continue to put their troops in the right places and then execute, but I'm skeptical that they will be able to pull it off in any meaningful way.

BERMAN: It's a great point. It's not an offensive until they actually take up arms and attack.

Mike Rogers, thanks so much for being with us. Really appreciate it. ROGERS: Thank, John.

BERMAN: All right, the politics lead now: Who does Hillary Clinton think will win the Republican hunger games? Well, might just have found out. She used her first major policy speech to go on the attack, and she named names.

And one of her targets is just minutes away from taking the podium to announce his own campaign for the presidency, Governor Scott Walker. He will make it number 15 on the Republican side.

We have a live report from Wisconsin coming up.


[16:16:21] BERMAN: All right. Welcome back to THE LEAD.

The politics lead -- one the busiest and biggest days so far in the race for 2016. Today, Hillary Clinton gave her first major policy speech of this presidential campaign, and the topic -- your paystub.

The former secretary outlined her plan to put more money in the pockets of middle-class Americans. And in the process, she may have giving us a glimpse into her head as to who he sees as major competition on the other side. She named names, including Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Governor Walker is just minutes away from taking his stage for his official campaign launch. We will go there live to Wisconsin in just a couple minutes.

First, though, let's bring in CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar.

Brianna, of course, fresh off the big interview with Hillary Clinton last week, and the tone we saw from the former secretary today, decidedly different than one week ago.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It was different. So were the details. She shared a lot of them about the issue that she and her campaign are convinced will drive voters to the polls -- the economy.



KEILAR (voice-over): Hillary Clinton slammed Republicans in her first economic policy speech of her campaign.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio for his tax proposal.

CLINTON: Senator Rubio's would cut taxes for households making around $3 million a year by almost $240,000.

KEILAR: And Jeb Bush for saying this --

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People need to work longer hours and through their product activity gain more income for their families.

KEILAR: Bush clarified he was talking about Americans working part time and want to work full time, but Clinton seized on his comments.

CLINTON: Now, you may have heard Governor Bush say last week that Americans just need to work longer hours. Well, he must not have met very many American workers.


CLINTON: Let him tell that to the nurse who stands on her feet all day, or the teacher who is in that classroom, or the trucker who drives all night.

Let him tell that to the fast-food workers marching in the streets for better pay. They don't need a lecture. They need a raise.

KEILAR: She targeted Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for taking on unions.

CLINTON: Republican governors like Scott Walker have made their names stomping on workers' rights and practically all the Republican candidates hope to do the same as president.

KEILAR: As Clinton laid out a plan she said will increase take-home pay for the middle class, she said corporations should profit-share with employees.

CLINTON: Hardworking Americans deserve to benefit from the record corporate earnings they help produce.

KEILAR: She questioned the side effects of the so-called shared economy, jobs created by companies with similar business models to Uber.

CLINTON: This on-demand or so-called gig economy is creating exciting opportunities and unleashing innovation, but it's also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.

KEILAR: The former senator from New York whose family foundation is under fire in part for accepting corporate donations, embraced the economic proposals of populist darling Elizabeth Warren, promising to take on Wall Street.

CLINTON: We'll ensure that no firm is too complex to manage or oversee, and we will prosecute individuals as well as firms when they commit fraud or other criminal wrongdoing.


[16:20:02] KEILAR: And now, some reaction from some of those Republicans that Hillary Clinton called out today, the Bush campaign saying Hillary Clinton is proposing failed policies of the Obama economy, and they are promising that his policies will spur economic growth. The Rubio campaign saying that "Clinton wants to take us back to yesterday", that's a quote, slamming the economic policies -- this is interesting, John -- of the Clinton, the Bush and the Obama years.

BERMAN: Game on.

All right. Brianna Keilar, thanks so much.

On the subject of new candidates, he took on the unions and became a conservative rock star. And today, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, he announced on Twitter and other ways that he's running for the Republican nomination for president, with the theme he says that he is a fighter.


GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R-WI), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, I'm running for president to fight and win for the American people. Not sacrificing or principles. We won three elections in four years in a blue state, and did it by leading. Now, we need to do the same thing for America.


BERMAN: He's a fighter, and right now, the Republican field looks like a battle royale. Walker is the 15th Republican candidate to officially enter the race.

CNN political reporter Sara Murray is in Wisconsin where the campaign kickoff event is set to begin in just an hour.

Sara, what's the latest?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, we're just a couple hours away from Scott Walker's speech here in Waukesha. His wife Tonette actually just finished her walk-through. She's going to be in introducing her husband tonight. We're expecting Scott Walker to speak from memory, without a teleprompter today, and we are going to hear on this theme of him being a fighter, and we're going to get a sense of how he's going to contrast himself as some of his opponents.

So, not only will he talk about winning elections. He'll say other people on stage have won elections, but that he's actually fought for the big ideas, the big conservative principles and that is a message of the day, squarely at the Iowa reporters that are nearby -- John.

BERMAN: And, Sara, he's going on the road. He's not just going to Iowa. He's got a big five-state tour going to several important states.

MURRAY: He's going to several important states. Like you said, he's going to hit all of the first four nominating state. It's going to end, though, in three-day road trip, in an RV across Iowa. This is the most important state. Aides where they're speaking candidly, when they're speaking privately say you cannot be the winner, you cannot be the fighter in the race and lose Iowa. This is the top prize for their campaign.

BERMAN: And right now, he's still in front in Iowa in most polls, but he has slipped around the country.

Let's talk more about that.

Sara Murray in Wisconsin, thanks so much.

Here to pick up for us, CNN chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

Dana, you just got back from Wisconsin. You were meeting with insiders there, not to mention members of Scott Walker's own family.

I'm old enough to remember when he was out in front of the national race, because it was two months ago. But he seems to have slipped to a certainly extent. Why is that? And is there any concern inside there with the Walker folks?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, John, you cover politics and old enough to know the expectation game, and there was actually a little bit more concern when he was riding so high, because inside the campaign they realized this is unsustainable. So, because, you know, he's -- it's so early on.

The fact of the matter is there are so many candidates in the race, a lot more have been sucking up the oxygen. You know, pretty, almost once a week, somebody announces, and they get a lot of attention, so they're hoping that he -- you know, he guest obviously a bump out of his announcement.

But the truth is he is still doing quite well in hi must-win state and it's actually refreshing that this time around, they are not playing the expectations game when it comes to Iowa. The Walker people say, we need to do well. We need to win in Iowa. And you'll still, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll, eight points up in Iowa. So , that certainly is a plus, even though he's not across the board doing as well as he was.

BERMAN: We saw Hillary Clinton today name checked at least three Republican presidential candidates, including Scott Walker, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. I want to focus on Jeb Bush for a minute right now, because what Hillary Clinton talked about was the statement he made where he said that Americans should work more, work longer hours.

Now, they say they were saying they should move from part time to full-time work, but is this a problem for the Bush team? Do you see this as something they need to continue to fix?

BASH: They need to continue to explain it, no question about it. They need to make sure this doesn't turn into Jeb Bush's 47 percent moment for Mitt Romney. And, you know, the fact is when he made this statement last week, Jeb Bush last week, so much the attention was focused on Donald Trump and his immigration comments that it didn't get as much attention as it might have otherwise.

You know, what the Bush people say, as you heard in Brianna's piece, he's not saying people need to work more. He was specifically tried to note that too many people are underemployed and they want to work more, they want longer hours. But when you have a sound bite, in this Twitter, you know, 24-hour age, it's very hard to combat that.

[16:25:05] And you already saw Hillary Clinton taking it out of context. But it is easy to take that out of context, and that's the problem with the Bush campaign.

BERMAN: It's out there, and you can't un-say it at this point.

So, Dana, Donald trump seems to have is it accomplished more news if that was even possible. And he really performed the impossible. He brought David Letterman out of retirement.

Let's listen to what David Letterman had to say about Donald Trump.


DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN: I was complacent, I was satisfied, I was content, and then a couple days ago, Donald Trump said he was running for president.


The biggest mistake of my life -- number ten, that thing on his head was the gopher in "Caddieshack." Number nine -- during sex, Donald Trump calls out his own name. The number one interesting fact about Donald Trump, thanks to Donald Trump, Republican mascot is also an ass. There you go.



BERMAN: You know, David Letterman was poking fun. It was pretty pointed. But does Donald Trump care? He doesn't care if he's being made fun of by David Letterman. It proves that his point that he's the center of the universe right now, at least politically speaking, in this campaign.

BASH: Absolutely. First of all, before we discuss that, can we just talk about David Letterman doing a Wolf Blitzer imitation, with the gray beard? He kind of looked like Wolf, don't you think, coming out of retirement?

BERMAN: He's have to pay copyright fees on that, for sure.

BASH: Exactly.

But, absolutely. Look, Donald Trump is a reality TV star. He loves sucking up the oxygen. You request see it with husband rambling speeches he gave this weekend, for the past two weeks or so. He's very proud of himself and the attention he's getting.

So, having David Letterman come out of retirement because he just can't stand the fact that he doesn't have a nightly show where he can, you know, to do this and address Donald Trump with his top ten, it's just like manna from heaven for Donald Trump.

BERMAN: Dana Bash, thank you so much. I think there's probably more manna coming Donald Trump's way as well.


BERMAN: All right. President Obama says the punishments do not fit the crimes. Now, nearly 50 prisoners with will their sentences cut. They will go free. Could this signal a huge change to the criminal justice system?

In the world lead: another day and still no deal to put limits on Iran's nuclear programs, does the new snag today give Iran too much leeway? We're going to speak to a key critic of the negotiations, coming up.