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Terror Threats; Texas Investigation; Donald Trump Visits Border; Interview with Sen. John Cornyn. Aired 16-16:30p ET

Aired July 23, 2015 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: He's either going all in on sealing the border or there's going to be a lovely new golf course in Laredo, Texas.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The politics lead. Donald Trump on the Texas-Mexico line, taking his loud, unscripted message that Mexico sends its criminals to the U.S. right to Mexico's doorstep.

The world lead, ISIS now a bigger threat to the United States than al Qaeda, that from the head of the FBI, explaining why an ISIS attack on the homeland is the one they worry about most of all in a rare interview with CNN.

The national lead, new autopsy findings just released in the death of Sandra Bland. And they are consistent with suicide, as the jail under investigation for her death says she tried to kill herself before. But now another inmate at that same jail is talking to CNN about what happened.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD.

We're going to take a listen to Donald Trump speaking live at the Texas/Mexico border.





TRUMP: Right.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) what you say that the people who cross the border are racists and murderers...

TRUMP: No, no, no, we're talking about illegal immigration. And everybody understands that.

And you know what? That's a typical case. Wait. That's a typical case of the press with misinterpretation. They take a half-a- sentence...


TRUMP: They take a half-a-sentence -- by the way, they take a half-a-sentence. Then they take a quarter-of-a-sentence. They put it all together.

It's a typical thing. And you're with Telemundo. And Telemundo should be ashamed. And I will tell you something. What's really going to be fun, I'm right now suing Univision for $500 million. So, I want to tell you, we're going to win a lot of money because of what they do.

So, I want to just again -- I want to thank you -- no, no, you're finished, sir. You have obviously been...


TRUMP: I just want to thank, again, because this is about you -- it's not about me -- law enforcement, Border Patrol, all of you folks for being here, because this was actually an extra stop, a special stop. I heard you were here. I wanted to come and see you.

And thank you. We love you, man. We love you. Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you to the Border Patrol and to law enforcement. Thank you. Thank you.


TAPPER: Let's bring in CNN political commentators Dan Pfeiffer and S.E. Cupp.

We want to talk about Donald Trump's trip to the border, his making immigration a focus in the campaign.

S.E., first of all, before we start, let me say congratulations on your new Web series that you have with Scott Walker. We can bring in Dan Pfeiffer in, if that's OK. We're having some issues here with guests.

I want you guys to take a listen to something that Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, former governor of Texas, running against Donald Trump, what he had to say yesterday about Trump. He said, "He offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism, a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued."

Perdition, that's from Rick Perry. What do you think? Is Trump bad for the Republican brand?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, every time a Republican candidate is asked to explain Donald Trump or defend Donald Trump, even if they criticize him, it lumps them all together. And somehow it makes the party responsible for him.

The party is not responsible for Donald Trump. But as long as that idea persists, it is bad for the party. So I'm glad that the candidates are finally coming out vocally to try and distance themselves, because they have been sort of held to his whim and the games that he's been playing for too long now.

TAPPER: But there's a "Song of the South" briar patch thing going on here, because the more he says, it's -- honestly, the criticism helps him.

The criticism, whether it's from the media, even if it's a young independent pundit like S.E., or if it's from the establishment or Rick Perry, or whomever, it feeds the beast.

CUPP: Right.

TAPPER: It feeds his popularity.

DAN PFEIFFER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. All the traditional rules are sort of thrown out with Donald Trump.


PFEIFFER: He's like riding a wave of Republican base anchor at three things, immigration, the media and the establishment.

And there are the things that are -- or the three elements that are attacking are immigration advocates, the media, Republican Party establishment, so it's helping him. You know, like everyone said, the pundits said, his McCain comments would hurt him. They helped him.

TAPPER: They helped him because John McCain is an advocate for a comprehensive immigration reform path.

PFEIFFER: And a member of the Republican establishment and friends with the media. He's like the perfect foil for Donald Trump.

TAPPER: He's been talking about a potential third-party bid, not necessarily saying he wants to do it. But he's been kind of like throwing it out there.

CUPP: Threatening.

TAPPER: Yes, kind of. He said if the Republican National Committee continues to be, I think, unfair with him -- and to be honest -- to be fair to Trump, it was very unusual for the RNC to issue a statement condemning his comments about McCain. That is an unusual thing for a party to do.


CUPP: Yes.

TAPPER: That the third party, he is saying it's a possible if they keep acting that way.

CUPP: Well, yes, there's nothing keeping Donald Trump out, right? When you can self-fund forever and bad press doesn't apply to

you, then, yes, he could take that next step I think if he felt the wagons circling on the right. I don't necessarily think he's going to need to. He's doing just fine in the Republican primary.

I think he should stay right where he is if he wants to keep going, but when folks like you sit down with him and try earnestly to get him to answer substance questions on policy, that's great. The voters need to see that he doesn't have those answers. And I think the more they see that he doesn't have those answers, they will still always like the style, but they do at the end of the day want a commander in chief who knows stuff.

Like, I know a guy in China is not foreign policy. That's not foreign policy.

TAPPER: Let me ask you a question, Dan. Michael Barone wrote in "The Washington Examiner" that Democrats should worry about a potential Trump bid, too. He said: "Trump might also siphon votes of non-college whites from Democrats in states where their support was high enough to produce Obama victories."

We all remember how working-class whites were part of the Clinton coalition in 2008, much to some consternation at the time. We don't have to go into that right now. But do you see think that's possible?

PFEIFFER: No, I think it's completely wrong.

The working-class whites that Hillary Clinton did well in 2008 were Democratic primary voters. They are not going to vote for Donald Trump. In 2012, when No Labels and some of those organizations were talking about mounting an independent bid, we looked at the effect that any third-party candidate would have.

Every one of them benefited Democrats. And the thing that would normally keep a politician from launching an independent bid is to avoid handing the White House to the other party. I don't think Donald Trump cares about that.


PFEIFFER: If he can stay in the news for another 15 months, he's probably more than willing to do that.

CUPP: That sounds interminable.

TAPPER: Take a listen to Jeb Bush on the subject of Mr. Trump.

That's not Jeb Bush.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She's going to be beaten and I'm the one to beat her. And I will take jobs back. The reason I won with the Hispanic vote.



JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a joy to be here. I thought you would want to get an update on what was going on in Tallahassee yesterday. It made a little news, not as much as Donald Trump and all the other things that are so important for our democracy to find out about things.


TAPPER: A little snark from Jeb Bush.

CUPP: Yes. I bet they're frustrated.

TAPPER: This is what I think about this. If you're a Republican presidential candidate or a Democratic presidential candidate and you're frustrated with Donald Trump, who is polling in first place, you need to figure out how to get attention from voters and from the media.

CUPP: Right.

TAPPER: And that's your challenge. If you think that's insurmountable challenge, good luck dealing with Vladimir Putin.

CUPP: Yes.

I have an open letter to the GOP candidates in my column tomorrow talking to them about what they should do to solve Trump. And one of the things has to be refusing to talk about him. If I were a candidate, I would not answer a single question from a single reporter about something Donald Trump said. I just wouldn't.

And I would put the question back on the reporter, what would Donald do about X-question? What would he do policy-wise? If you don't know the answer to that, that's because you haven't been doing your job and I'm not going to talk substantively and be held to a different standard than Donald Trump is.

TAPPER: Dan, you know what I'm surprised by? This is a candidate who Hillary Clinton went to his third wedding. He gave money to Hillary Clinton when she ran for the Senate.

Donald Trump gave money to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to help recapture the House and Senate in 2006. He's changed his position on a number of issues, said in 2004 in an interview with Wolf Blitzer that he identified as a Democrat. He was in favor of abortion rights until 2011, I think. And yet you don't hear any Republican saying, this is a Democrat. Why not?


I think they're all -- I think it's two things. I think some of them are trying to follow the advice that S.E. is going to give, which is don't get caught up... TAPPER: Don't engage.

PFEIFFER: Don't engage.

And others are afraid of angering his supporters, because right now, according to some recent polls, one in four Republican primary voters are supporting Donald Trump. I think they assume he is not going to be there when Iowa caucus day comes or New Hampshire primary day comes. They could be wrong about that, and they don't want to alienate those people.


If you turn off 25 percent of the vote in a 15, 16-person election where you could win the Iowa caucuses with 18, 19 percent, you have to be careful about that. I think that may be a strategic mistake, but I think that's what their thinking is.

TAPPER: But you say you don't think he's going to be here. Give me the scenario where he drops out. I just...

CUPP: No, I don't think he drops out.


TAPPER: Give me a scenario where he loses support.

CUPP: Yes, I think the first debate will be a real sort of bellwether.

If Donald Trump shows up to that debate very seriously with some policy points, doesn't interrupt people, acts like a serious candidate, then I will give him a look, and I think that will buy him a lot of time and goodwill and maybe a bump in the polls.

If he gets out there and does his circus shtick, where he's calling people dummies, interrupting, I'm not going to talk about that right now, I think most people, while they love straight talk, they want their candidates to be a pilot who is not going to fly them into a mountain.


TAPPER: Do you agree with that?

CUPP: We will see.

PFEIFFER: Look, I think, in previous times where you have had insurgent candidates like this that threaten the electoral prospects of the party, the party establishment comes in and has an effect in the race.

That happened to Howard Dean in 2004 when Democrats had a panic attack that he would cause us to lose that election. I don't think that will matter here, because the Democratic establishment is in greater standing with party in 2004 than the Republican establishment is. That probably helps him.

I would have thought a few weeks ago this is a flash in the pan, but he survived the McCain comments, he's first in the polls. He lives off the publicity he's getting from this. I don't know why he would drop out.

TAPPER: I have to believe that there's a bunch of rich Republicans who don't want him to be a nominee in a room somewhere thinking...

CUPP: Let's pool our money.


TAPPER: No, but if went up against him, it will help him. You know what I mean? Remember all those third-party ads against Howard Dean?



TAPPER: Gibbs was on one of those anti-Dean...


PFEIFFER: I have no knowledge of that, but...




TAPPER: I think it was reported at the time. But it was -- the establishment did try to hurt Dean. They thought he would be a bad nominee.

CUPP: The only thing that would hurt him would be if we ignore him. And no one is going to do that. Who is going to do that?

TAPPER: Not me.


CUPP: Exactly. Me neither. I'm writing about him. I'm talking about him. I asked him for an interview today. That's the only thing that makes Donald Trump go away, if we just stop paying attention.

TAPPER: Which we have agreed we're not going to do.


TAPPER: S.E. Cupp, Dan Pfeiffer, thank you so much.

In our world lead, al Qaeda no longer the biggest terrorist threat to U.S. -- the FBI director now says that the top spot of threats belong to ISIS, and finding potential terrorists is like searching for a needle in a haystack -- that story next.


[16:16:50] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Topping our world lead today: a stark and ominous warning from the top law enforcement official. FBI Director James Comey tells our own Wolf Blitzer that ISIS is a greater threat than al Qaeda.


JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: If you imagine a nationwide haystack, we are trying to find needles in that haystack. And a lot of those needles are invisible to us either because of the way in which they are communicating or just because they haven't communicated or touched a place where we could see them.

And knowing there are needles that you can't see is very worrisome.

WOLF BLITZER, THE SITUATION ROOM: Is that now a bigger threat to the U.S. homeland than al Qaeda?

COMEY: Yes. Yes, the threat that ISIL presents, poses to the United States is very different in kind, in type, in degree than al Qaeda. ISIL is not your parents' al Qaeda. It's a very different model. And by virtue of that model, it's currently the threat we are worried about in the homeland most of all.


TAPPER: It seems hardly a week goes by without an arrest of an ISIS sympathizer, eight last month alone, 50 half way through 2015. Many of them, according to law enforcement, radicalized online, and according to authorities, hell-bent on carrying out a deadly act of terror.

Joining me to talk about ISIS and the threat to the homeland is Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas. He's a member of the Senate Republican leadership.

Senator, thank you so much for being here.

I want to get to ISIS in a second, but, first, I have to tell you, your home state is being invaded right now by a presidential candidate and a throng of reporters. And I do want to get your reaction to what's going on in Laredo right now.

Do you agree with Donald Trump that Mexico is purposely sending criminals and rapists into the United States and that this criminal element is most of who is crossing the border?

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Well, I do not. There's no question, though, a porous border can let people with benign intentions and those with malicious intentions through. And certainly, the shooting of this wonderful young woman out in San Francisco in recent days has awakened us to the dangers of a porous border and non-enforcement of our immigration laws, particular against people who commit repeated felonies who should be expelled from the United States in our own self-interests.

TAPPER: Are you worried at all about damages that Donald Trump might be doing to your party?

CORNYN: I think Mr. Trump is a unique personality. I don't think anybody thinks that all Republicans are like Donald Trump. So I'm not too worried about that.

This will play its course and, you know, we'll elect our nominee. The Democrats will elect their nominee and then we'll go at it until the November 2016. So I'm not worried about any lasting damage.

TAPPER: Fair enough.

Let's turn back to ISIS. Do you agree with the FBI director that ISIS has surpassed now al Qaeda as the biggest security threat to the nation?

CORNYN: Well, I do, in the sense that al Qaeda we were worried would train and export from safe havens overseas, attacks against the homeland, airplanes and other sorts of weapons. But now, we know that using Twitter and social media, that ISIL has become really a master of the use of social media to communicate directly with people who are then radicalized here at home and told to go out and killed Americans.

[16:20:13] Unfortunately, we saw that attempt in Garland, Texas, in recent weeks. We saw someone inspired at least in part or subjected to the teachings of Anwar al Awlaki, the Chattanooga shooter, not in real time necessary, but downloaded some of his diatribes. So, this is a real danger.

TAPPER: Take a listen to what FBI Director Comey told Wolf Blitzer about what makes ISIS so effective in spreading its propaganda and attracting recruits. You touched on it but take a listen.


COMEY: They have adopted a model that takes advantage of social media in a way to crowdsource terrorism. They are preaching through social media to troubled souls, urging them to join their so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq, or if you can't join, kill where you are.


CORNYN: How do you stop that, Senator?

CORNYN: Well, you've got to get in the game. And right now, ISIL is the only one in the game and we're playing catch-up. We've barely shown up for the fight.

So, we both need to be able to monitor some of these communications from abroad to radicalized or potential radicalized Americans here at home. But we also need to fill the voice with our own messages and point out what ISIL's objectives are. They are hardly benign.

And I think we need to counter that message. So, we need to do it in both a law enforcement monitoring and investigative mode, but also in a counter-message mode, and we're not really doing that now.

TAPPER: Senate Majority Whip, Senator John Cornyn, thank you so much. I appreciate your time, sir.

CORNYN: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Also in the world lead -- fleeced, bamboozled, some of the ways lawmakers described just how badly they think the Obama administration got taken in their nuclear Iran deal with Iran. So, can the president rally enough support before a 60-day window closes in?

And the national lead also coming up, an early autopsy report just released in the death of Sandra Bland. The details coming as another inmate from the same Texas jail tells CNN about that day.



[16:26:10] SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: Anyone who believes this is a good deal really joins the ranks of the most naive people on the face of the earth.


TAPPER: The world lead -- there is I am told a Persian proverb that goes a little something like this -- I say it's a bull, he says milk it.

One cannot milk a bull, of course, but give John Kerry points for trying today on Capitol Hill where he faced a very skeptical crowd at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee where he tried to sell the diplomatic plan he helped negotiate, which he says will prevent Iran from having the means to build a nuclear bomb.

Congress is currently within the 60-day window to review and vote on that deal. Kerry insisting there is no realistic alternative, but Republicans and many Democrats now are trying to do everything possible to stop this from passing. The best the White House is hoping for reportedly is that the vote against the bill will not be so overwhelming that it will be veto proof.

CNN's global affairs correspondent Elise Labott joins me now with the testy testimony.

It sounds rough.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It was rough. I mean, Secretary Kerry (INAUDIBLE) on scratches. The public was screaming, "thank you, John Kerry". Once the questioning got started, it was pretty clear that lawmakers were not buying what John Kerry was selling.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I believe you've been fleeced.

RISCH: With all due respect, you guys have been bamboozled and the American people are going to pay for that.

LABOTT (voice-over): In a ferocious counterattack to Republican critics of the deal, the secretary of state warned rejecting it would give Iran a, quote, "great big green light to build a nuclear weapon."

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Let me underscore, the alternative to the deal that we have reached is not some sort of unicorn arrangements involving Iran's complete capitulation. That is a fantasy.

LABOTT: Lawmakers accused Kerry of treating the agreement as if it was already a done deal.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: Convince me that this, what we're going through right now isn't just a big charade.

LABOTT: Making Congress the guilty party.

CORKER: What you have really done here is you have turned Iran from being a pariah to now Congress -- Congress being a pariah.

LABOTT: In a new line of attack, Kerry said, like it or not, Iran's nuclear know-how is here to say.

KERRY: We set out to dismantle their ability to build a nuclear weapon. We have achieved that. We can't bomb that knowledge away. Nor can we sanction the knowledge away.

LABOTT: Republican presidential hopefuls seized on the spotlight.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everybody that's for the agreement, yourself included, is saying this will prevent them from having a nuclear weapon. And the ayatollah is saying exactly the opposite.

KERRY: Well, no.

LABOTT: And put Kerry on notice, if elected, they would not be bound.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Iranian regime and the world should know that the majority of members of this Congress do not support this deal, and that the deal could go away on the day President Obama leaves office.

KERRY: There's no alternative. That you or anybody else has proposed to what --

RUBIO: I sure have, Secretary Kerry.

KERRY: Nobody has a plan that is articulated that is reasonable.

LABOTT: The tension even coming from some of Kerry's own party.

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: If you're going to snap back, you have to snap back to something. If you're not snapping back --

KERRY: Senator --

MENENDEZ: Let me finish --


MENENDEZ: Mr. Secretary, please, don't eat up my time. I'm sorry, with all due respect, don't eat up my time.


LABOTT: Now, I'm not sure he changed many minds during those four-hour grilling. If Congress blocks the deal, the president has promised to veto. Right now, the administration seems to have enough Democratic support to make sure his veto sticks.

Secretary Kerry warned with or without the U.S., this deal is going ahead, and in that case, the U.S. would face being isolated on the world stage -- Jake.

TAPPER: A tough day on Capitol Hill.

LABOTT: Very tough --

TAPPER: Elise Labott, thank you so much.

In our national lead, preliminary autopsy results are now in, ruling Sandra Bland's death in a Texas jail cell a suicide. Now, an inmate in the next door is talking to CNN about what she heard in the minutes before the tragic death. We'll have that story, next.