Return to Transcripts main page


Detail of Tennessee Police Shooting; Interview with Josh Earnest. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired August 3, 2015 - 16:30   ET



NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, this all started on Saturday night, when Bolton, the officer there on your screen, spotted a car parked illegally. He approached the car, and according to police, that's when he was confronted by the passenger. He reportedly broke up a small-scale drug deal, about $20 worth of marijuana found in that car, as well as a digital scale.

The suspect opened fire on the police officer, shooting him multiple times. Local residents in the area heard the commotion. They rushed to the scene and used Bolton's radio to try to phone in 911 dispatch to let them know what happened, but it was simply too late. Bolton was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

He is the third Memphis police officers to die in the line of duty in the last four years -- Jake.

TAPPER: Nick, tell me about the suspect's alleged driver. My understanding is that he's turned himself in, but has not been charged with anything?

VALENCIA: Sometime on Sunday afternoon, that driver who was in the car turned himself into police voluntary. We spoke to his attorney a little while ago, and he said that his client's information during that interrogation with police was instrumental in leading to the arrest warrant for 29-year-old Tremaine Wilbourn.

That driver, we should mention, still has not been charged. The attorney is maintaining that driver's innocence -- Jake.

TAPPER: Nick Valencia, thank you so much.

Now to another city where federal agencies are assisting the local police, Baltimore, which is facing an almost unprecedented level of violence. The city has requested federal help for quell the crime wave there.

Here's a look at the homicide rate from just this year; 191 people have been killed in 2015, 116 of them in just the past three months, 42 people killed in May. That's the month after Freddie Gray died in police custody. July saw 45 deaths from violence, making July the deadliest month in Baltimore since 1972.

And in the first few days of August, there were at least two more deaths in that city. A total of 10 special agents now from the FBI, DEA, ATF, the U.S. Marshals and the U.S. Secret Service will be helping Baltimore's cops, two from each agency.

With all the talk about whether Vice President Biden will enter the race for the White House, what does the current occupant of the residence think about the possibility of handing over the keys to his number two?

That story next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Also in our politics lead today, President Obama this afternoon announcing a controversial plan to try to slow the harmful effects of climate change. His new proposal would require every state to reduce by nearly a third its greenhouse gas emissions from coal-burning power plants.

This would take place over the next 15 years and could transform the way that many Americans get their electricity in the future.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is one of those rare issues, because of its magnitude, because of its scope, that if we don't get it right, we may not be able to reverse. There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change.


TAPPER: Joining me to talk about the president's clean power plan and some other issues is White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

Josh, thanks so much for being here.


TAPPER: The president was very measured in his comments, talking about how climate change is the biggest threat to America's future.

But I want you to take a listen to how Mr. Obama and his anger translator, Luther, as the president introduced him, described the need for environmental regulation at this year's White House Correspondents Dinner.


OBAMA: Every serious scientist says we need to act. The Pentagon says it's a national security risk. Miami floods on a sunny day, and instead of doing anything about it, we have got elected officials throwing snowballs in the Senate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, I think they got it, bro.

OBAMA: It is crazy. What about our kids? What kind of stupid, short-sighted, irresponsible bull...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hey!



TAPPER: Josh, I know it was a joke, but isn't that actually closer to how President Obama really feels about this issue, that kind of passion and frankly anger?

EARNEST: Well, Jake, I think you're right. The president does feel some passion around this.

And as the parent of two teenage girls, he understands that this is a basic fundamental question about the future of our country and the future of our planet. And for a long time, decades, we have seen politicians in Washington, D.C., resist taking any serious steps on this issue because the politics are tough.

And, frankly, Jake, you covered the president's campaign in 2007, and 2008. You know that this is exactly the kind of issue the president ran for president to confront. And that's what he is making good on today.

TAPPER: Many states, as you know, are vowing to fight these new rules, threatening to go to court over it. Critics, including some energy companies, say that this move will send utility prices soaring.

Josh, do you think consumers are going to end up paying for this?

EARNEST: Well, Jake, what our analysis indicates is that actually over the long term, this would actually save consumers money when it comes to paying their monthly utility bill.

And this is the kind of inflammatory rhetoric that we have heard from opponents for a long time. You know, the Clean Air Act has been in effect since the 1970s. And the Clean Air Act actually gives the president the authority to implement the rules that they're announcing today.

But when the Clean Air Act went into effect, at that point, we saw people warning that rules under the Clean Air Act would ruin the economy. The fact of the matter is, since the Clean Air Act went into effect almost 40 years ago, we have actually seen air production reduced by 70 percent, and the size of the U.S. economy has tripled. So taking these kinds of steps is actually good for the economy.

TAPPER: Right, but, Josh, the Supreme Court just whacked the Obama administration for not factoring in the costs of these measures on business expenses, when it comes to environmental regulation. Was that part of the decision-making process at all here?



And, Jake, again, what the analysis showed is that there would be some costs that would be incurred by private industry, as they begin to make some of these difficult changes.

TAPPER: But you think they are not going to be passed on to consumers?

EARNEST: Well, what we have found is actually that the public benefits of this rule actually are four or five times the cost that would be paid by these individual utilities, both in the form of public health benefits, that, if we can make additional gains in terms of cleaning up our air, we are going to see significantly fewer cases of asthma and significantly fewer asthma attacks.

And there are also variety of other health risks associated with air pollution that are reduced if we can begin to take some of these steps. That's only part of it. The other thing that we're seeing, Jake, is that investments in clean energy, which is already a trend that we're starting to see, will be redoubled, will be turbo-charged by these kinds of rules, because utilities will have to make investments in things like renewable energy, solar energy, wind energy, hydropowered energy.

This is actually going to be good for the economy over the long term, because, as you make -- as you make investments in this kind of new technology, the cost of generating power through this new technology actually becomes reduced and actually would be over the long term less than the cost of producing energy through coal, for example.

TAPPER: Josh, I want to ask you about a couple other issues, as long as I have -- the Senate, as you know, is going ahead with a vote to try and defund Planned Parenthood. The White House has threatened to veto any measure like that.

EARNEST: That's right.

TAPPER: Is it your contention that there's nothing in these secretly recorded videotapes of Planned Parenthood officials discussing what sounds like profiting from fetal tissue and organ sales, there's nothing in these tapes that bothers you and anyone in the White House?

EARNEST: Jake, I have got to tell you, these videos were released because of their shock value.

And there's no doubt that's what depicted on these videos is shocking. I know that based on the news reports that I have read about the videos. I haven't actually looked at them, but people who have looked at them have raised significant questions about whether or not these videos are credible, about whether or not they have been selectively edited in a way to grossly distort the position and the policies of Planned Parenthood.

(CROSSTALK) TAPPER: The whole video is put up on the Web site of this anti- abortion group that put them out. You don't have to watch just the edited version. You can watch the whole version.


Well, listen, I'm relying on news reports that I have seen of people who have taken a look at this and raised questions about the videos themselves. And there is no doubt that this is an organization that has targeted Planned Parenthood for some time. So, they clearly have an ideological axe to grind.

What we know to be true is that Planned Parenthood provides regular health care for millions of Americans across the country. And Planned Parenthood is not able to use federal funds to perform abortions. That is written into the rules. That is a rule that this administration has not just followed, but actually supported.

So it's clear that there are some ideological games that are being played here, and what this administration and this president has long fought for is protecting access for women to health care. And that's exactly why we want to make sure that there is not an ideological effort to wholesale defund Planned Parenthood that provides those important health care services to women all across the woman.

TAPPER: Somebody at the White House should maybe watch the videos in full.

Josh, I do want to ask you about, there's been a lot of talk over the weekend and today about the possibility that Vice President Biden is going to throw his hat into the race for the White House. He's obviously still in mourning for his son Beau. It was a huge loss.

I guess my question for you is, how is the vice president doing? And do you think he's in a place emotionally where he could really even be thinking about such a thing as running for office, given how understandably devastated he is?


Well, Jake, I think it's hard to imagine anybody who's going through the difficult time that the Biden family is currently going through. But what we have seen from the vice president over the last month or so is that he has really thrown himself into this job.

And he has got some very important responsibilities here at the White House. There's a lot of important work that is being done, and the vice president has been an important part of all of it. He has also, as you would expect, taken some time to spend some time with his family as well.

And he, as well as anybody, understands what is required to balance those two critically important priorities in his life. And as far as I can tell, at least from my vantage point, he's done that exceedingly well. And when it comes to making a decision about whether or not to run for

president, that's something that -- that is a decision that he's going to make on his own time. And given his long career in politics and given all of the skills and experience that he would bring to that kind of campaign, he's earned the right, even the prerogative to take his time in making that decision and to announce that decision on his own time frame. And that's exactly what he's doing.

TAPPER: All right, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, Josh, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

EARNEST: Good to talk to you, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up, the search area expanding, investigators now looking at other islands in the Indian Ocean to see if more debris from an airplane has washed shore. We will give a close-up look from the water next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Topping our World Lead today, authorities are expanding the search area for more debris from Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 after confirming that a piece of wing found on an island off the coast of Madagascar last week does in fact belong to a Boeing 777.

That is the same model as MH370 which disappeared without a trace 17 months ago, 239 people were on board. Let's get right to CNN's aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh.

Rene, no other Boeing 777s have crashed or vanished in that part of the world so what is left to determine as to whether or not this was part of MH370. It couldn't have been a part of anything else, right?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right and from what we know right now it sure looks like it would be a part of MH370, but the only way to know for certain is to examine it. That is set to get under way this Wednesday. Soon after, we should know for sure if this is the first piece of tangible evidence from that missing plane.


MARSH (voice-over): Inch by inch of Reunion Island's shoreline searched. Every object that washes ashore is under scrutiny by investigators looking for parts of the missing Malaysian Airliner.

[16:50:11] Meantime, the hunt for even more aircraft debris has now expanded to nearby Seychelles and Mauritius islands. CNN on board a boat with volunteers laser focused on finding anything floating at sea that could belong to a plane.

So far none of the new debris is as promises as this find. Officials now confirm this airplane part found last week is indeed a piece of a Boeing 777's wing. LIOW TIONG LAI, MALAYSIAN TRANSPORT MINISTER: It's a Boeing 777 part, but whether it is MH370's parts is yet to be verified. I want to emphasize that is yet to be verified.

MARSH: Investigators will run tests to verify if it's part of the missing plane. The French lab where the flaperon will be examined has sophisticated equipment and expertise to quickly identify which plane it belongs to. The paint is one of the many things they will examine.

DAVID GALLO, WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTION: Unfortunately, until we find the main wreckage on the bottom of the ocean, none of the pieces that we find in between now and then are going to solve the riddle or satisfy the government agencies or the families involved.

MARSH: Steve Wang's mother was on board MH370. He tells CNN's Will Ripley, he still listens to the last voicemail she sent him. But even if this is confirmed to be part of the missing plane, Wang says it won't bring closure.

STEVE WANG, SON OF MH370 PASSENGER: I think the only closure will come at a time when they find the plane and find everybody and find the truth.

MARSH: Monday a high-level logistics meeting in Paris between Malaysian officials and French investigators before Wednesday's tests are done to determine if this is the first piece of tangible evidence connected to aviation's biggest mystery.


MARSH: Well, the question has been asked if the part is in France, speaking of that debris of why hasn't the analysis started yet? It really looks like this is coming down to logistics, making sure all of the proper protocol is followed and all the necessary parties who are part of an investigation are there.

We do know that members who were there in this high-level meeting that we saw happen in Paris today, they're expected to go to the lab and get their initial look at this piece of debris that is a Boeing 777 tomorrow.

TAPPER: Piece of debris, piece of the puzzle. Rene Marsh, thank so much.

Coming up, what do all presidential candidates really want, big money from rich donors so who are the sugar daddies of 2016? We'll tell you next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Our Money Lead now, with so much focus on the polls, sometimes you forget the Democrats and Republicans have another metric to measure how well the campaigns are doing -- the almighty dollar.

It's not just about how much their campaigns are raising, but how much the super-PACs supporting them are raising. For the first time almost every candidate has one of these super-PACs raising money to support their man or woman.

And there are no limits on how much someone can give as a June 30th presidential super-PACs amassed a collective fortune of $258 million in donations. That's nearly ten times as much as donors forked over by that date in the 2012 cycle.

Now what does this mean in terms of how much influence these multimillion-dollar contributors will have with the next president compared to, say, you.


TAPPER (voice-over): Presidential hopefuls this weekend pressed the flesh at NASCAR, a farmers market, and for five of them the weekend was spent with fat cats at a Koch brothers retreat at a St. Regis Resort in California.

GOVERNOR SCOTT WALKER (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You're here because you love America.

TAPPER: And American politicians love them.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Money helps. Money helps. I'm playing by the rules of the game, the way it was laid out. If people don't like it, that's just tough luck.

TAPPER: With no contribution limits on super-PACs to ruin the fund, 2016ers are seeking sugar daddies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to raise $100,000 every week for a full year to raise $5 million. For a sugar daddy you get a $5 million check like that.

TAPPER: The super-PACs behind Ted Cruz have raised $38 million, so far 95 percent of it coming from just three families including one that got a lot of its dough from fracking. According to the "New York Times," all this super-PAC cash means that only 400 families have provided about half the money in the election so far.

Jeb Bush's right to rise PAC has the biggest haul with $103 million coming mostly from bigwigs in the oil and gas industry, and three former ambassadors. Marco Rubio's super-PAC owes half of its $16 million pile to just two pals, Oracle's CEO, Larry Ellison and the former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, Norm Bramen.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has $20 million in super-PAC funds, a quarter of it from the owners of the Chicago cubs. On the Democratic side, one of Hillary Clinton's super-PAC has a $15 million vault which is shared more evenly among big names.

Including $1 million each from Dreamworks executive, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, as well as big gifts from George Soros and "Star Wars" Director JJ Abrams and his wife. SHANE GOLDMACHER, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": Super-PACs have fundamentally changed the game. They have to spend a huge amount of their time not just courting voters, but courting billionaires.

TAPPER: The big question, of course, for all these donors, what will these rich guys and gals giving these huge sums expect from the candidate who wins?


TAPPER: That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Turning you over now to Brianna Keilar. She is in for Wolf Blitzer next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.