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Alleged ISIS Plot Disrupted in Florida; Trump Rising; Suspension Upheld for Tom Brady; ISIS Sympathizer Arrested in Florida; NFL Upholds Brady's Four-Game Suspension. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 28, 2015 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:10] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: An alleged Key West beach bomb plot inspired by ISIS.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The politics lead, as candidates desperately try to claim a spot on the big stage, the statements are getting stronger, and in some cases the stories out there are getting downright ugly. Today, the guy on top, Donald Trump, under fire after an aide tried to clarify a hopelessly wrong remark that marital rape is not illegal.

Breaking news in the national lead, an American arrested, accused of an ISIS-inspired plot to detonate a bomb on an American beach on the Fourth of July. Just how close was he to committing this potential massacre on the homeland?

And a shocking sports lead. Tom Brady's Deflategate suspension has been upheld. That's four games he will get to spend at home with his supermodel wife. But would the suspension have been lighter if he didn't destroy his cell phone with 10,000 text messages allegedly on it?

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

Let me tell you something, folks. It's getting rough out there in the politics lead. The pressure is on, the clock is ticking in this final countdown to the beginning of Republican debate season. The 16 Republican contenders have just one week left to secure one of 10 spots on the debate stage in Ohio.

Candidates are looking for ways to get their messages out, to seize momentum, to grab attention, so that they can receive a golden ticket, not to mention, of course, they want to enter the arena with some wind at their backs.

Ted Cruz accusing the Senate Republican leader of lying. Mike Huckabee invoking the Nazi ovens of the Holocaust when discussing the Iran deal and what might happen to Israel. Now, President Obama suggested Republicans were essentially trying to out-outrageous each other with comments the president called ridiculous, to out-Trump, in effect.

Trump, meanwhile, finds his campaign back in the crosshairs, with a top Trump adviser apologizing today for comments he made to a reporter. More on that story in a minute.

But, first, I want to bring in Tom Foreman.

Tom, clearly, some of these candidates are getting nervous with this first debate looming large. And really, they're looking for any edge.


The way the Republicans are scrambling right now, you would think they were making their pick next week, not almost a year from now at their convention in Cleveland. But the field is so crowded and the stakes are so high to have a seat on that stage for this first debate, that the gloves are off, and the fight is on.


FOREMAN (voice-over): Bottom nine duking it out...


FOREMAN: In any event, there seemed to be a technical issue there.

TAPPER: We're having a technical problem.

FOREMAN: Perhaps one of the candidates took over the machine.

The bottom line is this, Jake. What we have is 16 candidates and we have 10 slots. These are the big-name candidates out there. Some of them are almost guaranteed to be in there. Jeb Bush is going to be in there. Donald Trump is going to be in there. They're going to have a run at it, Scott Walker. They're polling so high, that they're certainly going to have a place on the stage.

Below that, you have several who have pretty good numbers who look solid in all of this. But they're not guaranteed a spot, because we don't exactly know how FOX is deciding this. FOX says they're going to take several nationally recognized polls. And with those polls, they're going to decide who gets to be on the stage. But we don't know which polls they're talking about. There could be some shifting around here as to who did stronger in one place or another. And then you get to the bottom ones.

TAPPER: And that's really where it gets dicey, because if you don't get on that stage, you really are almost not going to be considered a real candidate by a lot of voters.


You get 4 percent, 3 percent, 2 percent, less than 1 percent, which is what Lindsey Graham is getting right now, you really have a fight to show up there and say, I'm actually a part of this race, you need to think about me. And I know we're a long way from this election. But if you're not on this stage now, even though FOX says they will have sort of a second-tier discussion for the people who didn't get on the stage, if you're not among those top 10, basically many voters are going to say, you're not really a serious candidate, even this far out.

That's why the fight is so tough, even though the voting is very far away, Jake.

TAPPER: And I know that's what your piece would have illustrated in an excellent, compelling way.

FOREMAN: It would have been spectacular. Next time.

TAPPER: An Emmy Award winner.

Thank you so much, Tom Foreman.

Even though Trump continues to ride high in the polls, leading in many of them, his campaign is now facing coverage on the subject of marital rape after The Daily Beast dusted off a nearly three-decades-old accusation levied against the mogul. In a deposition hearing during divorce proceedings, Trump's first wife, Ivana, said that he raped her.

She disavowed those charges not long after. And again today to CNN, she called the Daily Beast report totally without merit. But it's how a Trump associate denied the story that has his campaign facing some criticism today.


Michael Cohen, special counsel to Trump's corporate entities, in discussing the case with a reporter from The Daily Beast, said -- quote -- "Legally, you cannot rape your spouse."

Now, that's not accurate. Marital rape is illegal in all 50 states. Cohen then swore to sue the reporter, Tim Mak -- quote -- "for every penny you still don't have." And he warned the reporter to -- quote -- "tread very F-ing lightly."

Let's go right to CNN national political reporter Sara Murray.

Sara, what has been the response today from the Trump campaign?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Basically, Trump's campaign is trying to get as far away from this comment, as far away from Michael Cohen as they possibly can.

I was speaking to Corey Lewandowski earlier, who is the campaign manager. He said, Michael Cohen is a corporate employee and is not affiliated with the campaign in any way.

Now, I asked him. We have seen Michael Cohen on our air talking about Donald Trump. He's been on CNN quite a bit. And I said, does this mean he's not going to be a surrogate anymore, we're not going to see him on TV? The campaign manager sort of dismissed the question and said, these are two separate enterprises. I can't tell you. This would be like asking Nike what they think of Reebok.

(CROSSTALK) TAPPER: OK, well, that's an interesting comparison.

We also did hear from Michael Cohen today. What did he have to say?

MURRAY: We did hear from a very contrite Michael Cohen today in a statement, where he apologized.

He said: "As an attorney, husband and father, there are many injustices that offend me, but nothing more than charges of rape or racism. They hit me at my core." Then he goes on to apologize, saying: "In my moment of shock and anger, I made an inarticulate comment which I do not believe and which I apologize for entirely."

You can see there, even he believes that he sort of crossed the line on this one.

TAPPER: Obviously, this is not the first controversy having to deal with Donald Trump. Do you expect he himself will address this?

MURRAY: I think that it's possible we will see him address it. I'm sure that he will be doing media interviews and he will be asked about this going forward. We haven't heard of any plans for him to talk about it today.

One thing we do know, though, is this does not seem to be hurting his political rise. The previous controversies, he's weathered pretty well. And there's a new New Hampshire poll out from Monmouth University. It shows him in a lead 2-1 over Jeb Bush. He has 24 percent support among Republican primary voters in this new New Hampshire poll vs. 12 percent for Jeb Bush.

If that's any indication, it seems like voters like Donald Trump in spite of all the controversy.

TAPPER: Or maybe because of all the controversy.

MURRAY: Maybe because.

TAPPER: Sara Murray, thank you so much.

Let's talk about this gladiator fight to make it on this first debate stage.

We have CNN national political reporter Maeve Reston joining us, as well as CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Ana Navarro, and CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile.

Maeve, let me start with you, the Trump campaign trying to distinguish between the campaign and Trump's corporate entities, since Michael Cohen works mainly for them. Trump's campaign manager said, as you heard from Sara Murray, this is like asking Nike what they think of Reebok, asking the campaign what they think about Trump Corporation.

But this is someone who just appeared as a surrogate for Trump on CNN yesterday. Do you think people are going to buy it? Do you think this will at the end of the day matter?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, absolutely, he's been on countless numbers of shows, not just our air, talking on behalf of Trump's campaign.

I think this is going to be a really tricky line for Trump to walk, and it's really only the first of many stories to come. If you're running for president, then you kind of have to own your organization, what your organization does, your business history, and obviously a lot of the investigative reporting has started on Trump. They're going to be digging up a lot of things from his past that perhaps his campaign would rather not talk about.

At the same time, it does show the very tricky line the candidates have to walk, which is when they have surrogates out there who go over the line, as Sara said, and then they have to try to clean it up, that gets to be a very messy process, as you know, really anyone who's endorsed you all the way down the line. Trump's campaign obviously is trying to deal with these little speed bumps as they come their way. They haven't really done this before. We will see how well they clean it up.

TAPPER: But, as you note, it does come with the front-runner status, intense scrutiny on everything in your past.

Ana, let's talk about Mike Huckabee for a second. Your friend Florida Governor Jeb Bush criticized Huckabee for the language he used when he said the Iran deal was basically leading Israel to the ovens, with a Holocaust invocation. Let me play devil's advocate here. If Huckabee does think that the end result of the Iran deal will be the destruction of the Jewish state, why would it be improper to invoke the Holocaust?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, I can see where Huckabee would think that. In fact, so does Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, who came here and pled that we not approve this deal, because he thinks it is such a threat to Israel.

I think you can sympathize with that. For me, Jake, it's just a very personal thing, but for me, the Holocaust and Hitler are such unique horrific moments in history, events and individuals, that I think there is no comparison. And we shouldn't use them lightly and compare the two. To me, they are -- they just stand in a category of evil by their own.


TAPPER: And, certainly, there are a lot of people who agree with you, including the Anti-Defamation League.

Donna, let's remind people, there are Democrats running for president as well.


TAPPER: I want to play you something that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton answered a New Hampshire veteran's question on how she would handle the Keystone pipeline, which is a big concern for environmentalists. Let's take a listen.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was the secretary of state who started that process. I was the one who put into place the investigation. I have now passed it off, as obvious, because I'm no longer there, to Secretary Kerry. This is President Obama's decision, and I am not going to second-guess him.


TAPPER: Is that going to be good enough?

BRAZILE: No. You know Democrats. Democrats want answers. They want to know exactly where she stands, what would she do differently from Obama. Would she support the president's once the process is finished?

But, you know, members of Congress, they have to answer these tough questions. Yes, she will have to talk about it.

TAPPER: Maeve, let me ask you, trackers from the Republican group America Rising spotted Hillary Clinton boarding a private jet after delivering an energy plan including steps for combating climate change, but now saying she's going to ditch the private jets and her campaign is going to go carbon-neutral. What do you make of all this?

RESTON: Both of these issues obviously are very important to the Democratic base of the party, and on Keystone, first of all, that's never going to last. You can't wait until you're president to comment on an issue that is that important to the base.

I see where Secretary Clinton was maybe not trying to step on President Obama's decision, but, as a candidate, you can't get away with that. On the jet, the logistics are tough. You have got to get around a huge country, get to campaign events pretty quickly, but obviously, if this is something they're committed to, then we will see if Hillary can still make all of her events on time, and be everywhere she wants to be.

TAPPER: Ana Navarro, Jeb Bush gave an interview last night to Telemundo entirely in Spanish. He had some comments on immigration. We have translated them for me. Take a listen.


JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): First, coming here legally has to be easier than coming here illegally. There needs to be an agreement with the border. For the 11 million people, they must come out of the shadows, receive a work visa, start paying taxes, and also pay a small fine, learn English, don't receive government benefits, but they come out of the shadows and they receive legal status after some time.


TAPPER: Bush also saying he was hurt by Donald Trump's words about Mexicans. His wife of course is Mexican.

Do you think that Latino voters will be receptive to that message? It still falls short of the status -- I'm talking about Latino voters now, not primary voters -- it still falls short of full citizenship, which Hillary Clinton is pushing.

NAVARRO: I think Jeb has to say, look, I'm being realistic, I'm being pragmatic, I am committing and offering something I think I can realistically deliver.

I think Latinos remember Obama's big promise. We have been through this road before. We have heard Barack Obama in 2008 and then in 2012 again promise comprehensive immigration reform. He said in 2008 he was going to do it in his first year. It was what the community wanted to hear. John McCain wasn't willing to commit to that, because he didn't know if he could get it done. The community widely supported Barack Obama.

So the question is, are people going to buy pie in the sky again, or are they going to buy a responsible proposal by somebody who has a record in Florida of identifying goals and being able to deliver it? I thought yesterday's interview was entirely in Spanish. It was -- it also showed how seamlessly Jeb can move from English to Spanish and how bicultural he is.

One of the things he told Jose Diaz-Balart which made me chuckle was that he does speak Spanish at home, particularly when his wife, Columba, is mad at him. And I think anybody who's married to a Hispanic woman would understand.

TAPPER: All right, I'm not going to have any comment on that.

Ana, Donna, Maeve, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

In our national lead, an American arrested for attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, the Justice Department saying a 23-year- old man planned to bury a bomb on a beach and remotely detonate it -- that breaking story coming up next.


[16:18:45] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

We have some breaking news on our national lead. Another American ISIS sympathizer arrested and charged with plotting a terrorist attack here in the United States.

Let's bring in CNN justice reporter Evan Perez, who has the late breaking details.

Evan, what can you tell us?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Jake, this is number 51. This is the number of people who ISIS sympathizers who have been indicted or charged here in the United States just since the beginning of this year. This one's name is Harlem Suarez. He's 23 year old. And according to the criminal complaint that was filed at the Justice Department, he was planning to detonate a backpack bomb, which he was going to hide in sand on a beach in Key West. It was going to be containing nails, something he had already obtained, and he had already previously gone to an Internet site to order an AK-47 which was due to arrive back in May.

Now, the FBI was luckily on to him, and they went and intercepted this package and made sure that he didn't obtain it, it's something that very nearly could have gone wrong there.

We do have something that he apparently recorded a martyrdom video, Jake. And in it, he described what he was planning to say, which was, "We will destroy America, divide it in two, we will raise our black flag on top of your White House, and any president on duty, we'll cut his head."


[16:20:00] How did he get on the radar of law enforcement?

PEREZ: Well, like a lot of these guys, they're not too smart. He apparently reached out to someone, to friend them on Facebook, with some very extremist messages about ISIS and wanting to recruit that person. Apparently, this person didn't know him and went to the police, which is following the advice of law enforcement, which is if you get something like this, if you see something, say something.

TAPPER: I'm glad that person did. Evan Perez, thank you so much.

PEREZ: Absolutely.

TAPPER: A new video has been released showing the jail booking for Sandra Bland. Sandra Bland, of course, is the woman who was found dead in her jail cell days after a controversial traffic stop. Officials in Waller County, Texas, released this video in the hopes of dispelling persistent social media rumors about how, in some people's view, Bland's booking photo may have been taken after she died. That is not true.

Those social media posts, which have since been discredited, claim that those mug shots like the one you see here are always taken in street clothes. That's not true. The video shows Bland changing from her street clothes into the jail jumpsuit and getting her photo taken. An autopsy ruled Bland's death a suicide. The traffic stop is still under investigation.

Coming up, the NFL commissioner not only upholding Tom Brady's suspension but now accusing him of intentionally hiding evidence in the deflate-gate scandal. That's next.

Plus, a new undercover and edited Planned Parenthood video released just hours ago. This as rallies spread across the country and Republicans pressed forward on legislation to defund the health care organization. We'll show you that video, ahead.


[16:25:34] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

We have some breaking news in the sports lead today. The deflategate saga is continuing to expand. The NFL now says the New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady destroyed his cell phone in an apparent attempt to hide evidence about his involvement in the scandal. The discovery comes as the league ruled it will uphold Tom Brady's four-game suspension.

This all goes back to that investigation in the underinflated footballs used in the AFC championship game. It was that game that sent the Patriots to the Super Bowl, where, of course, they won.

Let's bring in CNN sports anchor Rachel Nichols.

Rachel, the NFL directly says in the appeal, Tom Brady admitted he destroyed his cell phone and his SIM card the same day he was scheduled to meet with the investigators?

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yes, this is definitely the bombshell contained within the bombshell of Tom Brady's suspension being upheld for four games. The NFL says that Tom Brady destroyed the cell phone that he had been using for the four months prior to when he was called in by investigators. The cell phone they estimate contained 10,000 text messages, some of which they would have been interested in seeing.

Now, of course, we don't know what was in those text messages. He's got a very famous wife. Maybe they were text messages to Giselle he didn't want anyone saying.

Tom Brady claims that he regularly destroys his cell phone. That he gets a new cell phone every four or five months. That when he does get a new cell phone. He instructs his assistant to destroy the cell phone and the SIM card. I don't know if that's a regular job in the entourage, cell phone destroyer, but that his story and that is what he told the NFL during the appeal.

The NFL clearly doesn't buy it. They said that, hey, maybe he does destroy his cell phones, but it sure seems suspicious he destroyed it the very day that he was called in to talk to investigators. They further note that he was given the chance to go through his old text messages himself, they didn't even necessarily want the phone, they said to him, you go through the text messages, you're honorable Tom Brady, on the honor system, you bring us anything you think might be relevant and Brady and his lawyer didn't even do that.

So, with all of that collectively, the NFL has decided that Tom Brady only didn't cooperate, that he tried to obstruct this investigation. And that is part of the big reason they have upheld the suspension to four games.

TAPPER: Brady, of course, has threatened to sue the NFL. Quickly if you could, Rachel, does he have any sort of a case?

NICHOLS: Well, look, he has the case that, hey, it goes against what labor lawyers call the law of the shop, the idea that Roger Goodell had no business being the appeals officer in this, even though it is in the collective bargaining agreement, that he does have the right to be the appeals officer. Their claim is that he was inherently too biased because he was involved in this case, he was actually a witness in the appeal, and it was an appeal of the decision his office made. So, he was the judge, a witness, and he was also one side of the argument.

So, that is their case if they go, it won't be over whether Tom Brady did or did not deflate footballs. It will be over procedure.

The NFL has lost pretty some high profile cases against Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson recently. So, the NFL Players Association certainly have some potential to put their money where their mouth is, they haven't come out and said what they are going to do they've just threatened to do it, they have 20 pages and over 10,000 words of this NFL appeal document to read, and then they'll come out and say what they're going to do.

TAPPER: Speaking of 10,000, what a coincidence that Tom Brady destroyed the 10,000 text messages in that phone --

NICHOLS: Exactly.

TAPPER: -- the same day as the investigations. I mean, what are the odds?

NICHOLS: Conspiracy theorists who have already been all over deflategate are only going to look at it further. We are only just beginning Jake. There's no question, this is going to keep going.

By the way, if Tom Brady does stays suspended for those four games, he will come back against the Indianapolis Colts for a game in Indianapolis. You may remember, the deflated footballs supposedly happened against the Indianapolis Colts. There we go.

TAPPER: All right. That will be a game I will be texting a lot.

Rachel Nichols, thank you so much.

Continuing our sports lead, she's a woman tackling the glass ceiling in football. The Arizona Cardinals announcing today that Jen Welter will be joining the coaching staff, she's believed to be the first woman to hold a coaching position of any kind in the NFL. She joins us as a training camp and preseason intern, coaching the Cardinals linebacker. Walter was also among the first women to play in a men's pro-football league.

She suited up in the indoor football league in 2004, where she was frankly pummeled by a 6'4", 245 pound man in her first carry seen here. Walter meanwhile stands at 5'2" 130 pounds. She popped right back up for the next play.