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Interview With Rick Santorum; North Korea Nukes?; Trump on Top; Trump Passes Walker in New Iowa Poll; Mississippi Couple Faces Terrorism Charges. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired August 11, 2015 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: He seems to get stronger each time he tramples on the political playbook, and now Donald Trump tells CNN that's his campaign strategy. I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The politics lead, news for those of you tired of hearing Donald Trump speak. The billionaire front-runner in the GOP race now says he's going to keep whining and whining until he wins. And a new Iowa poll shows this strategy might be just crazy enough to work.

The world lead, what North Korea has been up to while the world has been focusing on Iran, why melting snow might reveal a major upgrade to Kim Jong-un's nuclear program.

The national lead, fears for the drinking water downstream after an EPA error created an environmental disaster and turned an American river orange. Now states downstream demanding to know, what is the agency going to do to clean it up?

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

Our politics lead today, most politicians, if they were accused of being whiners, might take umbrage at the notion. They don't want to be seen that way. But most politicians are not Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. And when asked about a column by a conservative writer criticizing him for whining, Trump told our Chris Cuomo today he whines when he's not winning, and he whines until he wins.

Trump noted that he could still mount a third-party bid for the White House if he does not like the way the Republican umpires, the RNC, calls the balls and strikes. But, frankly, right now, that's an option very much on the back burner, because Donald Trump is winning. Newly released polls out of Iowa and New Hampshire show Republican voters choosing Trump over all other contenders.

And, yes, these polls were taken after last Thursday's Republican debate. So, as we observed yesterday, to paraphrase the great philosopher Nietzsche, that which does not kill Donald Trump only makes Donald Trump stronger.

CNN chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash is here with me now in Washington. Dana, the last poll numbers we saw out of Iowa had Wisconsin Governor

Scott Walker in the lead with Donald Trump behind him, but now Trump has taken the lead. Is Walker reacting at all?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He is. Maybe if he did a philosopher-off, he would be saying, I think, therefore, I am -- Descartes. But he's not.

He's actually doing something quite different. He's calling him basically a Democrat. The big question coming out of last week's debate was whether Trump's refusal to pledge allegiance to the GOP would hurt him. Actually, this new poll in Iowa shows 55 percent of viewers said they were less comfortable with him as a candidate. But he's still topping the polls.


BASH (voice-over): A new major poll has Donald Trump leading for the first time in the first contest state of Iowa, edging out Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who spent months treading lightly around Trump and is now taking the gloves off.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R-WI), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump is just using the same old talking points of the Democrats. And they didn't work in the past. They're certainly not going to work in Iowa.

BASH: Trump's rise in Iowa comes as he told CNN's Chris Cuomo he still won't rule out running as an independent.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have to keep that door open, because if something happens where I'm not treated fairly, I may very well use that door.

BASH: And the bombastic billionaire is defying convention once again, admitting to and owning being a whiner.

TRUMP: I am a whiner. And I am a whiner, and I keep whining and whining until I win.

BASH: This morning, Trump tried to redeem himself with female voters after a public feud with FOX News' Megyn Kelly.

TRUMP: I will be so good to women. I cherish women. I will be so good to women. I will work hard to protect women.

BASH: In fact, today's new Iowa poll shows, despite controversial remarks about women, Trump is at 14 percent, winning with female voters in the first caucus state. This GOP opponent is not buying it.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Vulgarity does not equate with insight. Because someone can stand up and say you're stupid and you're ugly does not equate with a vision for the country.

BASH: Despite good news for Trump in Iowa, his lead narrowed in the first primary state of New Hampshire. On the upswing, two breakout stars from last week's debates. GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We just keep

plugging. We're like the little engine that can.

BASH: Ohio Governor John Kasich catapulted from barely registering in New Hampshire to third place. Conservative voters in the Live Free or Die State apparently not turned off by comments about same-sex marriage.

KASICH: I just went to a wedding of a friend of mine who happens to be gay.

BASH: And former CEO Carly Fiorina, who couldn't even get on the main debate stage last week, shined in the undercard.

CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I didn't get a phone call from Bill Clinton.

BASH: New polls show Fiorina moving up in both Iowa and New Hampshire.


BASH: Now, Jeb Bush is down to seventh place in Iowa. He was never banking on an Iowa victory, but is hoping for a New Hampshire win, which makes John Kasich's rise there all the more concerning to team Bush.


And, Jake, Bush is sticking with his win the general to win the primary strategy. Tonight, he's going to give a big foreign policy speech. And who is he going to go after? Hillary Clinton.

TAPPER: You have to win the primaries before you get to the general, though.

BASH: Well, there's a minor detail.


TAPPER: Dana Bash, thank you so much.

I want to bring in Republican presidential candidate, the former senator from the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum.

Senator, good to see you, as always.


TAPPER: So, Senator, you won Iowa last time around. This new Donald -- the new poll shows Donald Trump is leading in the state.

Are you surprised that, no matter what he seems to say, whether he's going after Mexican illegal immigrants or John McCain or Megyn Kelly, no matter what happens, he seems to go up in the polls? Does this surprise you at all? SANTORUM: Well, from my perspective, it's more of the same. He's

just sort of taking the same approach to all of these things, which is sort of a no-holds-barred approach.

And there's an element out there that I think is just sick of it. And they're -- I'm seeing it and hearing it across this country. They're sick of the establishment dictating to them who our candidates are going to be and setting rules in place to make that happen. And Donald Trump is different and I think is making a difference as a result.

TAPPER: I have covered you for a long time. I know you pride yourself on your foreign policy expertise.

I got into a conversation with Donald Trump about his approach to ISIS, which is, he wants to bomb all the oil fields in Iraq. I want to play some of that for you and see what you think.


TAPPER: I don't think Iraq -- I don't think the government of Iraq would want us to bomb their oil fields.

TRUMP: The government of Iraq? There is no government in Iraq. The so-called government in Iraq went to Iran to meet with Iran. Iran

is going to take over Iraq. That's as simple as that, as simple as that.

TAPPER: I don't know that Iraq, the government of Iraq, or whatever you want to call them, would support our bombing the oil fields in Iraq.

TRUMP: Who cares.


TRUMP: I don't care about the government of Iraq. They're corrupt. The government of Iraq is totally corrupt.


TAPPER: That's your front-runner. You were on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. What's your reaction when you hear that?

SANTORUM: My reaction is that I have serious problems with the government of Iraq too.

And it is incredibly influenced by Iran, and is doing the bidding, a lot, of Iran. And I have concerns that we are fighting a war through them, very ineffectively. Because of them, we're not arming the Kurds. That's pretty clear. We're not giving effective support to the Jordanians and to other Sunni Arabs in the region.

So, I don't know if I would use the term corrupt, but I would say that they're certainly not aligning with us and making a more effective fight to defeat ISIS. I think his idea of bombing oil fields is a big mistake. We have to make sure that when we do take that territory back, that that area can be productive and stable economically.

So I think the oil field idea is a bad idea. But his idea that the government of Iran and Iraq are in cahoots and working together and causing problems for the United States to be successful is absolutely true.

TAPPER: But what do you think of a presidential candidate when asked, the government of Iraq wouldn't want you to do that, saying, who cares?

SANTORUM: Again, that's the bravado, but the substance -- in this case, the substance, I generally agree with Donald Trump.


TAPPER: Although not the strategy of bombing all their oil fields.

SANTORUM: I don't like the oil field strategy, but I think he's correct, in that the Iraqi government has been one of the biggest problems for us in being successful in defeating ISIS.

TAPPER: You have held 92 events in Iowa over the last 38 days. That's more than any other Republican candidate. You are not doing great in this latest poll. You're at under 1 percent.

What would your message be to an Iowa out there who supported you last time, and wants to support you again, but think, I supported you last time, and you won Iowa, but you didn't go on to get the nomination, and this time it seems even less likely that you're going to win Iowa?

SANTORUM: I would say, I won Iowa, but I didn't win until three weeks later. You give me the win out of the gate.

We went on to win 10 other states, more than any other candidate, frankly, since Ronald Reagan. So, I think we did a pretty good job, given the fact that we didn't really have a clean win until about a month into the campaign.

You give us a good start, we have no doubt that we can go on and compete in New Hampshire, South Carolina and across this country. We have built a great grassroots organization. And we feel very comfortable that we're going to be ready to take it on once we get through.

TAPPER: At the undercard debate Thursday night, you said this about whether the Supreme Court's decision to rule same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional is settled law.

You said, it's not any more than Dred Scott was settled law to Abraham Lincoln.

Now, I understand that you're talking about what is settled law and what is not settled law.


TAPPER: But do you think it's unnecessarily inflammatory to compare same-sex marriage ruling to Dred Scott?

SANTORUM: I was actually quoting Justice Roberts, because he said the same thing in the opinion.

In hid dissenting opinion, he compared this decision to the Dred Scott decision. He said that the rationale for this decision was the same rationale for Dred Scott. And, in fact, I just took it one step further and said that the president in that case, knowing that this case was unconstitutional on its basis, said that the president has a role in enforcing the Constitution too.


And so I'm taking the next logical step. And if you want to -- do you want to be with Justice Taney and the way he interprets the Constitution, or you want to be with Abraham Lincoln and the way he interprets it? I choose Lincoln.

TAPPER: That's a fellow Pennsylvanian you're talking about there, I think, Justice Taney.

SANTORUM: Unfortunately, yes.

TAPPER: Yes, but not a great guy.


TAPPER: Before you go, how is your daughter doing?

SANTORUM: She's doing great. Thank you so much. We have had a great summer.

And she's healthy as can be, and we're very -- we just feel very blessed that everybody in the family is doing well. Thank you.

TAPPER: All right. Tell your wife I said hi. Great to see you again.



TAPPER: Thank you so much.

Comments about blood and name-calling, it's safe to say this is far from a traditional race for president. New poll standings reveal America's comfort level with the candidates. Is this just the beginning of a new age in American politics? We will talk about it all next.


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

More now in our politics lead -- I just can't stop myself. He governs the state right next door. He's a fiscal, social and foreign policy conservative. His supporters have said it's a must win for his campaign, and yet, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker now finds himself having lost serious ground in Iowa. He's been passed on the Iowa racetrack and he's now smelling Donald Trump's fumes.

I want to talk about the race with CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp, and former deputy press secretary to President Obama, Bill Burton, who is also the founder of Priorities USA Action, a super PAC now supports Hillary Clinton.

Welcome to you both.

S.E., Walker slipping in Iowa, that's bad news for him. Is his campaign basically pinned the viability of his campaign.



CUPP: Yes. I think -- I think a lot of people were looking at Scott Walker's Iowa moment after the debate and hoping he was going to have this sort of resurgence. It's just hard to get any ground with Trump in the airwaves. It's just almost -- it's almost impossible.

And I think if anyone's waiting for the next gas to sink his campaign, they're going to be waiting a really long time.

TAPPER: Bill, let me ask you, looking deeper inside this Iowa poll, Suffolk University poll, 55 percent of the Republicans who watched the debate last Thursday as Dana pointed out, they said they're less comfortable with Trump as a candidate after watching his performance. What are the odds that you think he might actually get the nomination?

BILL BURTON, FORMER DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think the odds that he gets the nomination are zero. But the odds that he creates even bigger problems for the Republican brand are high. If you look at how Rick Santorum responded to the Donald Trump interview. It was a whole series of me too, me too, me too. Instead of, wow! That's actually crazy and not what our party stands for, because the truth is the party is actually where Donald Trump is, he says it in a more colorful language.

CUPP: That's just not true. I mean, every Republican candidate came out, denounced what he said about Megyn Kelly.

I can't find a conservative strain in Donald Trump's policies, and the ones that he's at least he's enumerated. This is a guy who has supported Democrats so that economies are better under Democrats, from single payer health care, doesn't know if he's going to defund Planned Parenthood.

I mean, there's not a lot of conservative policy in his bravado. That said, I think we have to remember, what's going on here is a little bit of a core conservative base feels very burned by 2008 and 2012. Being told, here's who is electable, here's who you have to vote for. So, our nominee is going to be John McCain, here's who you have to support. Our nominee is going to be Mitt Romney, he's the most electable, here's -- what do they get for that?

They didn't get to vote on principle for their candidate, who may have been Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee and they didn't get a Republican in the White House. So, they're a little tired of being told by folks like me or folks like Jeb Bush about, that this guy, this guy you love, happens to be Donald Trump right now, is electable. They're sick of that. I don't know if it's Trump, or they're wedded to the idea I'm going to get something out of this election, no matter what.

TAPPER: Bill --

BURTON: Really quickly.

TAPPER: OK, go ahead.

BURTON: Just really quickly on this, I don't dispute everything that S.E. said, but on immigration, on choice, on foreign policy, on issue after issue, Republicans are all in the same place that Trump is, it's just that Trump says it in the most offensive of terms.

TAPPER: Bill, let me ask you a question. Sodium pentothal moment right now, you have to tell me the truth. Which candidate do you fear the most? Which Republican do you want Hillary, assuming she's a nominee, to face the least?

BURTON: I think that if you consider that Democrats are going to have a problem putting together the exact same coalition as President Obama, and we might have trouble with white voters in the Midwest and Northeast, I think that on paper, a Scott Walker or John Kasich, or someone like that could be real trouble in the general election. Even Jeb Bush if you believe he could bring Florida.

But, you know, I still think Hillary Clinton could beat those guys, because on policy after policy, we're just closer to where the American people are than Republicans.

TAPPER: S.E., you alluded to something earlier. And I want to play that sound, which is Donald Trump being asked this morning about -- on CNN, about abortion and about Planned Parenthood. Roll that clip.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via telephone): I would look at the good aspects of it, and I would also look, I'm sure they do some things properly and good, and good for women. I would look at that. And I would look at other aspects also. But we have to take care of women. We have to absolutely take care of women.


TAPPER: But I will make a bet with you right now, that is not going to hurt him with the voters either, are the Republican voters that want to defund Planned Parenthood. He says that and it's not going to have any effect.

CUPP: Well, his supporters don't really seem to hold him accountable for policies or things he's said. So, I think you're right.

[16:20:00] The problem is, now, he's putting other Republican candidates in a position to have to say, well, I agree with Donald Trump, or I completely disagree with Donald Trump. That's not who they want to be facing, they want to be facing Hillary Clinton, they want to be contrasting to Hillary Clinton.

TAPPER: Right.

CUPP: Let me tell you, regardless of what Bill says, the person that they most fear being contrasted with Hillary is Marco Rubio.

TAPPER: Well, let me ask you about that, Bill, because very quickly if you could, Hillary went after Marco Rubio for not supporting exceptions when it comes to abortion. His opposition to it in cases of rape and incest.

Why go after Marco Rubio? Plenty of Republicans had that position?

BURTON: Well, she also went after Jeb Bush previously. Marco Rubio, he just made such a point to say, no, no, I'm not as moderate as you say, I am as part of the right as possible. I think she was making a point that was an important one to be made.

TAPPER: Bill Burton, S.E. Cupp, thank you both so much. Appreciate it.

The world lead, the new potential nuclear threat discovered, when someone took a look at the image of melting snow in North Korea.

On the national lead, built up tensions turn up rowdy, unruly, even violent in Ferguson, Missouri. The new state of emergency one year after the death of Michael Brown.


[16:25:35] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Topping our national lead today, a stunning story out of Mississippi, where a young couple has been charged with supporting the terrorist group ISIS. Twenty-two-year-old Muhammad Oda Dakhalalla, and 19-year- old Jaelyn Delshaun Young, both former Mississippi State University students, were arrested Saturday at the airport in Columbus, Mississippi. They planned to travel to Syria to join the terrorist group.

That brings the total number of ISIS-related arrests in the United States to 55 this year with alone.

Let's get right to CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown.

Pamela, they're both Americans, and they got passports to leave, so how did they get caught.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Essentially, the FBI met them at the airport when they were about to bored a flight to Turkey, allegedly, according to authorities. And, apparently, they had been in communication with the FBI through social media for the past several months. So, that's how they were on the FBI's radar.

But this couple was using the fact -- it's a newlywed couple, they were using the fact that they were going on their honeymoon as a cover-up to the fact that they wanted to go to Syria to join ISIS, the FBI says. Also, the man is a 22-year-old, his name is Muhammad Dakhalalla. His wife, his new wife is a 20-year-old woman, Jaelyn Young, they were arrested at the airport as we said, on Saturday in Mississippi.

And from the outside, this was a seemingly normal couple, as you see right here. I mean, Young is the daughter of a Vicksburg, Mississippi, police officer. She was studying chemistry at Mississippi State University, and she recently converted to Islam, according to law enforcement officials we've been speaking with. And he graduated last spring from Mississippi State, with a psychology degree, he's the son of a local imam, we have learned from officials.

Here's what his former teacher had to say about him.


R.J. MORGAN, DAKHALALLA'S FORMER TEACHER: Just a really nice kid. Super smart, super intelligent. Always very polite, insightful, thoughtful, not radical in anyway.


BROWN: And according to this complaint, Young, the woman, seemed to be the most enthusiastic. In fact, in one conversation online, she allegedly boasted about how the two could help ISIS, saying, quote, "I am skilled in math and chemistry and worked at an analytical lab here at my college campus. My partner is very good with computer science and media, we learned very fast and would love to help." She said that to an FBI undercover agent.

And then, in July, she also allegedly said on social media, that she supported the shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that killed four marines.

The two appeared in court today in Mississippi, and were denied bail.

And this is exactly what we've been hearing from law enforcement, Jake, the big concern that social media is pulling in young people and recruiting them, and this appears to be the case here.

TAPPER: This is how they got on the radar screen of the feds as they were online, doing conversations in social media, and at least one of those individuals, they were talking to was an FBI agent.

BROWN: Absolutely.

So, what happened, according to the complaint, is that Young apparently was liking controversial Facebook pages. Posting her support of ISIS on social media. I think that caught the attention of law enforcement. And then, back in May, the FBI in an undercover capacity began communicating with her online as well as her husband, and that's what started the investigation and then led to this past weekend when they were arrested at the airport, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Pamela Brown, thank you so much.

Let's turn to our world lead now. What do precipitation and North Korea's nuclear program have in common? Well, potentially, quite a bit if you're in the intelligence business. A new satellite image showing snow melting at a fuel plant inside the hermit kingdom is raising concerns that the rogue regime lead by Dear Leader Kim Jong-un is trying to create highly enriched uranium which is, of course, a critical component for building a nuclear bomb.

Let's talk about this with CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, who joins us now live from the magic wall.

Jim, take us through what this picture shows exactly and why it's raising alarm bells in the government.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, these are the kind of small details that satellite analysts look for and analyze. So, let's have a look at this. This is the Yongbyon facility, it's in North Korea, a known nuclear site in North Korea. And the concern is that they are expanding their nuclear activity here.

So, look at what they noticed when they looked at pictures from January this year, then February, compared to past. This is snow on top, and you see snow melting irregularly here and in spots here and here. And when it went from January to February, a month later, those spots up here got even bigger, and the melting again got bigger as well.