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Chattanooga Shooting Investigation Continues; Trump Under Fire As He Doubles Down; Gunman Criticized U.S. War on Terror; Gunman's Friend Talks to CNN; Interview with Congressman Adam Schiff. Aired 4- 4:31p ET

Aired July 20, 2015 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:19] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Donald Trump knows hotels, no question, but his critics say he might want to learn a little bit more about the Hanoi Hilton.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The politics lead, doubling down. Donald Trump standing by his surprising comments about the war heroism of former POW and Senator John McCain. Is this the death blow that the GOP establishment has not so secretly been hoping for? Or will it help Trump keep trolling his way to the top?

The national lead. A close friend of the Chattanooga shooter, the man, terrorist perhaps, who murdered four Marines and a sailor, talking exclusively now to CNN, the friend, and revealing the shooter's fondness for guns, add his thought about ISIS.

Plus, the unbelievable video showing a surfer squaring off against a great white shark on live television. Today, CNN speaks to the man who punched Jaws, and lived to tell about it.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD.

We're going to begin with the politics lead today. I guess the big surprise would be if Donald Trump didn't manage to advance his own new controversy all by himself. Today, the billionaire real estate developer who leads the Republican presidential contest in several polls, but is hated by the Republican establishment, is not only doubling, even tripling down on the remarks he made over the weekend questioning the war heroism of the 2008 presidential nominee, Senator John McCain, who, as a reminder, spent five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese under conditions that likely would have killed many other men in days.

But today Donald Trump is also attacking nearly every other one of his opponents, in the process saying he's not about to be lectured by "losers."

Right now, we're monitoring a Lindsey Graham presidential campaign event in New York, where John McCain is expected to speak and possibly address this controversy again. Meantime, complicating any efforts by the Republican establishment to drive Trump out of the race are the very reasons why he appears to be succeeding in the polls with a large slice of Republican voters, his blunt, some might say crude talk, his disregard for Washington decorum, his focus on closing the border and attacking those who support comprehensive immigration reform, the animus between him and the Republican Party establishment, the outrage about him displayed by the media, and his aggressive insults against said reporters, all of these beasts, all further fed by this new McCain controversy.

And let's be frank here. It's not as if this is the first time a veteran who entered politics saw his valorous record besmirched as a campaign tactic with nary a complaint from some of those who are bellowing the loudest today.

So regardless of the breathless initial reaction to Trump's comments about the legitimate war heroism of Senator John McCain, one has to wonder if Mr. Trump will continue to gaffe his way to the top of the polls.

CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar joins me now.

Brianna, it seemed as though the Republican establishment saw this as a moment to pounce, an opportunity to stop the problem like Donald.


They think -- they say this moment has been inevitable, they were waiting for it. And they believe or are certainly hoping that this is the beginning of the end for Donald Trump, and also that his refusal to apologize for what he said about John McCain may ensure it is.


KEILAR (voice-over): Donald Trump touching off a political firestorm this weekend by insulting former Republican presidential nominee John McCain.


He lost. He let us down. But, you know, he lost. So I never liked him as much after that, because I don't like losers.


TRUMP: But--


TRUMP: Frank, let me get to it.


TRUMP: He's not a war hero.

LUNTZ: He's a war hero, five-and-a-half years as a prisoner--

(CROSSTALK) TRUMP: He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured. OK? I hate to tell you.


TRUMP: He's a war hero because he was captured. OK?

And I believe perhaps he's a war hero, but right now he said some very bad things about a lot of people.

KEILAR: Almost immediately, Trump's remarks drew scrutiny.

TRUMP: I like the people that don't get captured and I respect the people that do get captured.

KEILAR: McCain, a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War, was shot down, held prisoner and beaten for more than five years in Hanoi, even refusing early release. Still, Trump has not backed down, claiming his comments were misconstrued by the media in a "USA Today" op-ed, trying on "The Today Show" to turn his criticism of McCain to issues like the VA scandal.

TRUMP: I'm not a fan of John McCain . He's done a terrible job for the vets.


KEILAR: McCain himself took the high road this morning.

QUESTION: Does Donald Trump owe you an apology?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: No, I don't think so, but I think he may owe an apology to the families of those who have sacrificed in conflict and those who have undergone the prison experience in serving their country.

KEILAR: But Trump's Republican opponents swiftly denounced the comments.

Jeb Bush:

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a legitimate hero that has served his country in lots of ways, and Mr. Trump knows that. He should just apologize. I think that would probably move it on to the next thing. Next week, there will be another one of these things.

KEILAR: Marco Rubio:

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is not just an insult to John McCain, who clearly is a war hero and a great man. But it's an insult to all POWs.

KEILAR: And one of the two Republican vets in the race, Rick Perry.

LUNTZ: If Donald Trump does not apologize for John McCain, do you feel that that disqualifies him as a legitimate presidential candidate?

RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And as the commander in chief of this country, in one word, yes.

KEILAR: Ted Cruz, who stands to benefit if Trump gets out of the race, would not take a position.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I recognize that folks in the press love to see Republican-on-Republican violence. And so you want me to say something bad about Donald Trump or bad about John McCain or bad about anyone else. I'm not going to do it.


KEILAR: The question is, will this hurt Donald Trump? And it's really interesting, Jake.

You look at a Monmouth University poll that came after these comments were made, and he's holding steady as second place Iowa in this poll at 13 percent. The issue is this came down right after these comments, so a lot of people think this is something that will have to percolate over time, it may hurt his standing, but it's really unclear. He's such a wild card.

TAPPER: The comments he made about Mexicans didn't hurt his standing, and arguably they helped him.

Brianna Keilar, thank you so much.

So much happening in this race for 2016, not just Trump, of course.

Joining me now to talk about all of it, "Weekly Standard" editor Bill Kristol and Patti Solis Doyle, CNN political commentator and former campaign manager for Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential run.

Welcome to you both. Good to see you.

Bill, before Trump's comments about McCain, before them, I want to make sure, you told ABC News that Trump is be wiser, would be a better president than Hillary, and you also said he was not damaging the Republican. But that was then. What do you think now?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I still don't -- I think he's been hurt by these comments. Certainly, someone like me, who thought he was raising some useful issues and bringing some new people to the party, now thinks that he's gone -- said something he shouldn't have said, something for which he have apologized right away and something for which I personally -- disqualifies him as any kind of reasonable candidate for me.

But it's a free country, he can run, and I don't think it hurts the Republican Party. I have never bought that argument. There's no empirical evidence for it. If you look at polls of Bush vs. Clinton, or whatever, they're the same as they were two months ago, before Trump emerged. I don't think he's hurting. Other Republicans won't be blamed for Trump. In fact, to the degree they have criticized him now, they have shown a willingness to stand up to someone saying something inappropriate and wrong in their own party, which maybe if you would like to see -- it would be nice to see the Democrats stand up a little more against the radicals and know-nothings in their party.


TAPPER: We will get to that in a second. We will get to that in a second.

But right now, our viewers are looking at a live event with Lindsey Graham and John McCain. We're monitoring that and we will bring that to you if there's anything particularly relevant that comes out of that.

But, Patti, I want to play some sound for you from your former boss Hillary Clinton. This is her. This has been such a gift to her, so many people feel, Republicans even joking that Donald Trump must be a plant. Here is Hillary Clinton over the weekend reacting to Trump's remarks. Take a listen.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's nothing funny about the hate he is spewing at immigrants and their families, and now the insults he's directed as a genuine war hero, Senator John McCain.


CLINTON: It's shameful, and so is the fact it took so long for most of his fellow Republican candidates to start standing up to him. The sad truth is, if you look at many of their policies, it can be hard to tell the difference.


TAPPER: Now, I think, if you look at the policies, it is not that hard to tell the difference between, say, Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush and Donald Trump, but this is evidence that this is what the Democrats are going to do. They are going to take Donald Trump and his interesting hairstyle and make it a big paintbrush and paint all the Republicans.


For Hillary in particular, this has been a good week for her. She's been able to denounce Donald Trump and his caustic, offensive remarks, and at the same time paint this entire field with that same offensive remarks and that broad brush, as you mentioned.

TAPPER: But is that fair, Bill?


KRISTOL: No. And it's not going to work. Hillary Clinton is the only person in the race who attended Donald Trump's wedding.



TAPPER: Good point. Good point.


KRISTOL: That was at the third one.


KRISTOL: -- keep track, but maybe she's asking for the gift back, I don't know.

But, so, no, this is not going to work. This is a sort of silly thing. It would be like blaming Hillary Clinton for all the things that other Democrats have said over--

TAPPER: Let's bring up some intraparty Democratic warfare. At a gathering of liberal activists in Phoenix, Netroots Nation, there was a moment where Martin O'Malley, who is running against Hillary, former governor of Maryland, was shouted down when he said not just black lives matter, but all lives matter. Take a listen.


MARTIN O'MALLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every life matters. And that's why this issue is so important. Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter.


O'MALLEY: Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter.


TAPPER: What's surprising to me about this is that Hillary Clinton, although she perhaps wisely didn't attend this event, she got into some trouble a few weeks ago.

She had an event in Missouri and she said all lives matter in prepared remarks. And there were people from the Ferguson community upset that she didn't get it. Here we have a few weeks later more Democratic candidates not getting it. What's going on here?

DOYLE: I think we're talking about a very small portion of the Democratic Party, the far, far left. I don't think there's anything wrong with what Governor O'Malley said and there's certainly nothing wrong with what Senator Clinton said.

But there is definitely something wrong with what Donald Trump said. He called Mexicans rapists, right? So, I think, by contrast, Hillary and the Democrats by far are looking much more presidential.


TAPPER: This is the only point I want to make, Bill, and then I have to end the segment, is that this is -- this Donald Trump thing, this is what Democrats are going to do from now until..

KRISTOL: They can do it until they're blue in the face. It's not going to work.


TAPPER: But I asked about the black lives matter thing, and she's talking about--

DOYLE: Well, now they have to apologize for what he is saying.

KRISTOL: The Republicans are having interesting, exciting race. We can talk about Donald Trump all we want.


DOYLE: -- only hope that Donald Trump would apologize.


KRISTOL: The other candidates have actually repudiated what he said.

TAPPER: To be continued.

Thank you so much, Patti Solis Doyle, Bill Kristol, appreciate it.

The national lead now. Exactly why would someone want to kill those five service members in Chattanooga, Tennessee? The shooter's actions before the attacks are helping piece together a motive.

Family and friends now say they noticed changes in his behavior, and something that he wrote could provide the biggest clues -- the words that are now being analyzed in the terrorist attack in Chattanooga next.


[16:16:56] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Topping our national lead today -- it may seem obvious to most that the attacks last week, two military sites in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that killed five service members, that the attacks are Islamic terrorism, but law enforcement officials say it is not necessarily that clear-cut, at least not at this stage of the investigation. Officials are describing the reported the depression and drug use of the gunman, Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez.

But now, sources are telling CNN that investigators are analyzing writings by the shooter in which he rails against the U.S. war on terror.

Let's get right to CNN's Sunlen Serfaty. She's live in Chattanooga. Sunlen, Abdulazeez travelled to Jordan last year, we're told. Do officials believe that that trip in any way may be connected to this attack?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, that's exactly what investigators are now trying to determine. You know, his trip to Jordan, this is just one of his many aspects of his life that investigators are now focusing in on, including these newly uncovered writings that date back to over a year ago.


SERFATY (voice-over): He was opposed to the U.S. war on terror and held general anti-American sentiments. This uncovered as investigators scour the writings of the man behind the deadly shootings in Tennessee.

CNN has learned that Mohammad Abdulazeez suffered from depression and bipolar disorder. He abused drugs and could not hold down a job. All factors that led to Abdulazeez's family to send him to Jordan last year, to get him away from friends in Chattanooga that the his family thought were a bad influence.

RONALD HOSKO, PRESIDENT, LAW ENFORCEMENT LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: When those writings occurred is as relevant as the writings themselves. Did they occur in proximity to a trip to Jordan? And if so, that's going to drive some of the investigation overseas to find out who was he in contact with during that time?

SERFATY: After returning from Jordan in November, friends and family said he was doing better. He seemed happy. The Abdulazeez's family expressed shock in his statement over the weekend, saying, quote, "The person who committed this horrible crime was not the son we knew and loved."

In interviews with investigators, his family said he was a gun enthusiast and would often go to a shooting range. Four guns were recovered, two long guns and one handgun found with Abdulazeez on the scene, along with a long rifle at his home.

HOSKO: What was his network? Were there co-conspirators? Were there people aiding and abetting him in some way to include purchase of weapons, purchase of ammunition?

SERFATY: Hundreds gathered at the makeshift memorial at the site of one of the shootings.

The bodies of the five victims were flown from Chattanooga to Dover Air Force Base, a solemn tribute to fallen service members.


SERFATY: And investigators are also looking at a text message that Abdulazeez sent to a friend before the shooting. It included a link to an Islamic verse. Now, investigators say that it's like wasn't any sort of foreshadowing to the shooting. But they are, of course, looking at it as a piece to the overall puzzle -- Jake.

TAPPER: Sunlen Serfaty, thank you so much.

Law enforcement officials are, of course, trying to determine if the 24-year-old had any direct connection or any contact even with a terrorist group such as ISIS.

[16:20:08] CNN's investigative correspondent Drew Griffin spoke with one of the shooter's friends. He's also live with us from Chattanooga.

Drew, what did this friend have to tell you about Abdulazeez?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: A complete puzzle is developing. James Petty was a year-long friend, considered Mohammed Abdulazeez as a spiritual adviser in his conversion -- his recent conversation to Muslim, and says Abdulazeez referred to ISIS as a stupid group that was violating the laws of Islam. And as for any kind of hatred of America, he said it was quite the opposite.

TAPPER: This friend also --


JAMES PETTY, FRIEND OF CHATTANOOGA SHOOTER: From my understanding, he loved America. He was more American than me. He always wanted to come outside and doing something outdoorsy.

GRIFFIN: And along with that love of America, and you might say the South, he owned guns?

PETTY: Yes, sir.

GRIFFIN: And he taught you.

PETTY: He did.

GRIFFIN: With what kind of gun?

PETTY: The AR-15 assault rifle.

GRIFFIN: Tell me about that.

PETTY: One day, he said that he had a gun and that he was showing me pictures on his phone, and I'm like, hey, I've never shot a gun before, and he's like, do you want to shoot this one? I said, sure, I don't see why not? I've never shot one.

And we took -- we went out and it was either the first time we went to a gun shooting range or to outdoors in the woods, and he told me where the safety was, he told my how to put it together, told me not to point it at people, just have it always down, and he showed me how to shoot it.


TAPPER: And, Drew, this friend also spoke to you about Abdulazeez heavy drug use, yes?

GRIFFIN: Yes, and there's no other way to put it. He believes Abdulazeez was a pothead. The guy used pot all the time. It was a big friction point between Abdulazeez and Abdulazeez's parents. They called and nagged him, he said, every 30 minutes or so to find out where he was.

But, he says, he never saw any signs of depression over the past year, quite the contrary. He said he was one of the happiest guys he ever knew. He did have pain medication for a back injury, but his primary drug of choice and Achilles' heel was marijuana -- Jake.

TAPPER: Drew Griffin, thank you so. This is all so complicated.

How will we know if this attack in Chattanooga was inspired by ISIS? How can we prevent another attack like? We'll talk to the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. That's next.

Plus, Bill Cosby's admission he gave us sedatives and drugs to women he was having sex with and that he tried to hide his sexual relationships to his wife. Could these revelations now be used again him and lead to charges?


[16:27:02] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're going to continue with our national lead. U.S. law enforcement officials poring over evidence, trying to piece together what led Mohammed Youssef Abdulazeez, a naturalized U.S. citizen, to murder four marines and one sailor at a recruiting station and naval operation center last week in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The 24-year-old travelled to Jordan last year and hi family claims he suffered from depression and had problems with substance abuse.

Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff. He's the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, this is such a strange case. At first you see somebody who traveled as to Jordan, young man, exactly the kind of person that authorities have been warning people to be on the lookout for, possible self-mod investigated, self-radicalized jihadists. But law enforcement at this point has not been able to say that definitively.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: That's right, Jake. It's a very puzzling case, and certainly the circumstantial evidence indicates some at least inspiration from ISIS, if not more when he was in Jordan. We have the targets being military facilities, not one, but two military facilities. Hard to imagine that's a coincidence. It taking a place at a time when ISIS has called upon people to attack military targets, hard to believe that's a coincidence.

At the same time, not a robust online presence, not the usual kind of indicia we see of online radicalism, and we have yet to really find what he was doing in Jordan, or links to foreign terrorist organizations, although you better believe we're looking for them.

TAPPER: So, he did travel to Jordan several months last year. What do we know about what he was doing there, if he was in fact radicalized there?

SCHIFF: Very little. I've been briefed as recently as today. We're still trying to scour that trip, talk to our Jordanian counterparts about what do we know about this person? What was he doing there?

And as of yet, very little knowledge about this, no direct connection has been made for foreign terrorist organizations. Obviously, we're trying to find out was he radicalized there? Was he inspired here? Was this mental illness in addition to everything else? But it's still a very murky picture.

TAPPER: Was he on anyone's radar?

SCHIFF: I don't think he was in anyone's radar. And that probably was because he didn't have a very robust online presence. That which we've been able to see after the fact, it's still been pretty minimal. Even if we spotted this in advance, I don't know that that would have been enough along with the travel to Jordan to really raise alarms.

TAPPER: I want to turn to the overall war on ISIS. Take a look at this video, I do want to warn our viewers about, is quite graphic. It's a suicide bomb attack in Turkey, close to the Syrian border. More than 30 innocent civilians were killed. The Turkish prime minister is blaming ISIS, if that's confirmed, it would be the first time ISIS has attacked Turkey directly.

If it's confirmed, how significant is that? And does the coalition need to do more to stop ISIS from expanding? It seems to be quite obviously expanding its operations and its attacks.


SCHIFF: It would be significant if this is ISIS. And, certainly, that's who Turkey believes it is.

This was, I think, a strategic target, if it was ISIS. It's near Kobani. It's directed at a Kurdish area. I think, among other things, designed to sow discord between the Kurds and the Turks and internal discord within Turkey as well. It may be a result of Turkey taking some additional steps to try to tighten up that border, or take steps against ISIS that ISIS responded to.

By the same token, ISIS may be doing this as a provocation, wanting to drag Turkey more fully into this fight. So, a lot of unanswered questions at this point, but very potentially a serious escalation and now telling how the Turks will respond.

TAPPER: And what can you tell us about what the intelligence community thinks about these reports that ISIS is now using chemical weapons against the Kurds and against other civilians in Iraq? Has that been confirmed yet? If confirmed, how significant would that be?

SCHIFF: We have received briefings about potential use of chemical weapons by ISIS.

And I can say frankly that the report of these two international human rights organization, frankly, there's nothing that I have seen to discredit those reports. So, it's very worrying that ISIS may have access to this. This is a group obviously that has a no-holds-barred ply of beheading and crucifixion. If they can get chemical weapons, and they very well may have, they will use them. If they can get worse, they will use those too, so this is a very worrying new escalation.

TAPPER: Congressman Schiff, thank you so much. We really appreciate your taking the time to be here. Appreciate it.

SCHIFF: Thanks.