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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

A New Hillary?; Refugee Crisis; Kim Davis Released; Clinton Hits New Low in National Poll; Interview with Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired September 8, 2015 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:00:15]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: She is now out of jail, but will her conscience and that judge send her back there?

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

Breaking in the national lead, a judge freeing Kentucky clerk Kim Davis as a presidential candidate holds a rally for her. But did she change her mind about signing off on same-sex couples getting married? What's next here?

The politics lead, Hillary Clinton has decided to be more spontaneous and authentic. At least that's the plan, as new poll numbers spell possible trouble for her campaign. Hillary Clinton is trying to prove that it is possible to make yet another first impression.

The world lead, making a break for it, refugee families bursting through police lines, CNN right in the middle of the rush, as people desperately sprint toward what they hope will be a better life.

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

We're going to begin this Tuesday with breaking news in our national lead. Moments ago, the Kentucky county clerk who decided to follow her faith and not the requirements of her elected government office walked out of jail a free woman, Kim Davis taking the stage, flanked by her attorney and presidential hopeful Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee before breaking her silence before a huge crowd of supporters, cheering her decision to the tune of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIM DAVIS, ROWAN COUNTY, KENTUCKY, CLERK: You are a strong people.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

DAVIS: We serve the living God keep (INAUDIBLE) don't let down, because he is here.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

DAVIS: (INAUDIBLE) I love you guys. Thank you so much. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Davis had been locked up since last Thursday after refusing to issue marriage licenses because of her belief that same-sex couples should not be able to tie the knot on a document with her signature at least.

Let's right get to CNN's Alexandra Field live in Grayson, Kentucky.

Alex, set the scene for us where you are.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Jake.

This decision from the judge to release Kim Davis came as a surprise for the huge crowd that had gathered here in support of her, every bit of 1,000 people, by our estimation. She was also visited today by two presidential candidates, Ted Cruz and also Mike Huckabee.

Everyone collectively surprised by this decision from the judge coming to allow Kim Davis to go home. She's spent six nights in the jail here, but the judge's orders come with very specific instructions for Kim Davis. He's said that he's allowing her release because he has asked the deputy clerks in her office to issue marriages licenses to same-sex marriage couples.

They have been doing that. Because couples are getting access to those licenses, the judge said that Kim Davis could come out of jail, but he was very specific in these orders, saying that she could not interfere with the process, meaning she couldn't interfere with the couples who are going to apply for those licenses.

We have her attorney here with us, Mat Staver.

Mat, I'm going to bring you in here to discuss this.

We saw Kim. She was tearful upon her release. She seemed to be grateful for the release. She was certainly grateful for the support. But she did not address the facts of the case, she did not address the judge's decision. She has said from you that she will be returning to work this week. What does that mean for same-sex couples who show up at her office and try to get a license?

MATHEW STAVER, ATTORNEY FOR KIM DAVIS: We will have to see what actually happens.

But I can tell you that she will return to work this week. We don't know whether it's tomorrow or the next day, but she certainly will be at work doing her job. And she's not going to violate her conscience. She's going to continue to do her job well without violating her conscience, and we are continuing to ask for a simple accommodation for Kim Davis and any other clerk that finds him or herself in that same situation, where their conscience conflicts with this particular license, just to have their name and authority off the license. That is a simple request. FIELD: Mat Staver, thank you.

You heard Mat Staver saying that this is certainly a fight that continues. It is being appealed in an appellate court over the federal court that she was previously in. But you heard over and over again from Mat Staver there and from supporters here today that they believe that Kim Davis will not go against her conscience.

And she's been very clear in saying that her conscience and her religious beliefs dictate that she cannot issue same-sex marriage licenses or authorize her deputy clerks to. We will see what happens when couples appear at that office later this week, Jake.

TAPPER: Alex Field in Grayson, Kentucky, thanks so much.

Joining me now is CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, also a former federal prosecutor.

Jeffrey, what do you think happened behind closed doors at that jail to get Kim Davis released today?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this is actually a fairly straightforward legal situation.

[16:05:02]

Contempt is different from a prison sentence. Contempt, which is what Davis was in, is designed to force a certain kind of conduct. Once that conduct has been realized, there's no more reason for contempt, so the federal judge, Judge Bunning, said, look, I now believe that same-sex marriages will be allowed to take place in Carter County. And thus, we are -- there's no more reason to hold her in contempt, because the reason she was in contempt is that she was preventing these legally authorized marriages from taking place.

TAPPER: The bottom line is, if same-sex marriage couples come to her county office and the deputies issue these licenses and she allows them to do that, then everything will be OK?

TOOBIN: Exactly.

That's exactly right. And same-sex couples have an absolute right to get married in that county, like every other county in the United States. It doesn't matter whose signature is on their marriage licenses. As long as they have a right to get married and as long as they can get married, she can believe exactly what she wants to believe.

But the issue is, will these marriages be allowed to take place? Based on what her lawyer just said, I don't really understand if she is going to let them take place. But if she does, through the deputy clerks, then I think the legal controversy is over. If it doesn't, if she prevents the marriages from being taken place, she's going to go right back to jail.

TAPPER: And are those marriage licenses, will those marriage licenses be valid if they are signed by a deputy clerk and not by her?

TOOBIN: You know, that gets into the details of Kentucky state law.

As far as I understand, they will be, they will be valid. The point, though, is, same-sex couples have a right to a marriage license in that county. However, they get it doesn't really matter. But what matters is that they have the same rights as other people to get those. If the county sets up some procedure to allow them to get those licenses, this legal controversy is over.

But if Ms. Davis stops them from issuing licenses, then we are right back where they started. And Judge Bunning has made it quite clear he's going to lock her back up.

TAPPER: This drama might continue.

Jeffrey Toobin, thank you so much.

While Kim Davis celebrates her freedom and Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz celebrate what they're calling a victory in Kentucky, the Trump express is about to chopper into Washington, D.C. One week from tomorrow will be the second Republican presidential debate, and the Republican front-runner will mark the occasion by tomorrow parking on the Capitol steps and in the only way he knows how protesting the Iran nuclear deal.

Trump is not out there on the trail this afternoon, though, but the other guy, the other candidate who has never before run for public office, he is reemerging after a brief break as he finds himself the new direct challenger to Donald Trump in the polls.

CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash is here.

Dana, Dr. Ben Carson is on Trump's heels, second place in polls. He's addressing supporters right now in San Francisco. Then he's going to take questions from reporters. Right now, he's staking out a position on immigration reform, specifically on what you do with the 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants in this country right now that is different from Trump.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Very different and very interesting.

Trump has said that everybody who is undocumented should be gathered up and taken out of the country, back home where they came from. A lot of moderates have said that that's unworkable. And now Ben Carson agrees with them, saying in an interview that that's just not an idea that can make sense, that as Carson's rise means more scrutiny.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Ben Carson back on the campaign trail for the first time in 11 days.

BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Right now, it's being replaced with the what can you do for me attitude. And we need to rid of that and reinstill the can-do attitude.

BASH: Carson's absence from the public eye didn't seem to hurt him. Just the opposite. Over the past two weeks, his popularity has grown, second in Iowa at 22 percent, third in New Hampshire at 11 percent and second place behind Donald Trump overall in the latest national poll.

CARSON: It's something about America.

BASH: And yet the unconventional candidate is not in Iowa, or New Hampshire or any GOP contest state, but the liberal bastion of San Francisco.

Meanwhile, Jeb Bush, who ended the summer slipping in the polls, is starting to spend some of the big dollars he has raised to try to climb back up. With Republican voters right now yearning for new blood, nonpoliticians like Carson and Trump --

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As governor, I cut taxes.

BASH: -- this first Bush television ad pitches himself as an outsider, but one with a record.

BUSH: If you want more D.C. politicians or more self-promoters, you have got options. I'm offering something different, leadership, ideas, and a proven conservative record.

[16:10:08]

BASH: And in an effort to show his personality, and capture a large audience, Bush will appear tonight on Stephen Colbert's first "Late Show" after taking over for David Letterman, even as Donald Trump is out with another Instagram video mocking Bush as low-energy.

NARRATOR: Jeb, for all your sleeping needs.

BASH: As for Trump, the man who took the top spot, despite eyebrow- raising comments like questioning John McCain's war hero status, he says in a new biography he -- quote -- "always felt that I was in the military," according to "The New York Times," because he was sent to military school for behavioral problems, that despite never serving in the military, and draft deferments from Vietnam.

Here he was on the subject a few years ago.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Success is a very important thing. It's certainly been very important to me. And I can tell you that one of the great choices I ever made in terms of success is the choice of going to NYMA, New York Military Academy. I loved it. It was terrific training. It was tough, but it was good.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And, tomorrow, Trump will come here to Washington and appear with Senator Ted Cruz. Trump is really kind of arm in arm with Cruz. He's a person who has never criticized Trump, even though most of the other opponents have. They're going to rally on the steps of Congress, as that body debates

the Iran nuclear agreement. Jake, we just learned today that Democrats, at least those who were aligned with the president on Iran, they have enough votes now to stop a Republican attempt to try to overturn that agreement.

TAPPER: Forty-one votes being the key number.

BASH: Exactly.

TAPPER: Dana Bash, thank you so much.

On the other side of the race, a brand-new poll showing Joe Biden quickly rising, as the Clinton campaign tries to devise a plan for Hillary Clinton to reinvent herself as spontaneous and authentic -- that story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:16:08] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. More now on our politics lead.

It's hard to keep track of how many times the Hillary Clinton campaign has attempted to reintroduce their candidate to an American public that has known her since 1991. But after the summer dragged her poll numbers down, they are going to try again.

Let's bring in CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar.

Bri, another reintroduction for Clinton coming, at the same time as a national poll that has some numbers that give her campaign even more reason to be a little concerned.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And her campaign is making some adjustments in reaction to these worrying poll numbers.

Bill Clinton will actually free up his wife to campaign instead of fund-raise. Hillary Clinton was supposed to headline a large donor Chicago fund-raiser in the middle of the month. He is doing that instead, so that Hillary Clinton can campaign in New Hampshire, where Bernie Sanders topped her recently in a poll of voters there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): Hillary Clinton's numbers have taken a dive, down 10 points nationwide, as her campaign tries to turn a corner. According to "The New York Times", aides are crafting a strategy for her to show more spontaneity --

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Love your hat.

KEILAR: -- heart and humor.

CLINTON: A lot of people have said a lot of things about my hair over the years. So I do kind of know what Donald is going through. And if anyone wonders if mine is real, here's the answer. The hair is real, the color isn't.

KEILAR: But President Obama's former adviser David Axelrod is poking fun at the reboot, tweeting the report "read more like The Onion. Her detailed plan to show more authenticity and spontaneity. Just do it."

In Iowa this weekend, Clinton tried to shore up his shrinking lead in the polls.

CLINTON: I believe I've got the vision, the policies, the skill, the tenacity and the determination to get us back on the right track.

KEILAR: But she's still on defense about her use of a private e-mail server, telling "The Associated Press" yesterday, she doesn't need to apologize because, quote, "what I did was allowed."

Her loss is Joe Biden's gain.

CROWD: Run, Joe, run!

KEILAR: New poll numbers out today show a swell of support for the vice president. He's up 10 points since last month, and he's still deciding whether to get in the race, dodging questions about a possible run.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You'll have to talk to my wife about that. I've got to talk to my wife about that.

KEILAR: Nationwide, Biden is running neck and neck in the polls with Bernie Sanders who is beating Clinton in a new poll of New Hampshire primary voters.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don't tell anybody, I think they're getting nervous.

KEILAR: Sanders crediting his support with his grassroots campaign efforts.

SANDERS: We have the people on our side. And when people stand together fighting for social and economic justice -- when we stand together, we will win.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: And we should update that Hillary Clinton has sat for a still to be released interview with ABC News. In it, according to ABC News, a tweet from the news outlets, she said about her private e-mail server, "That was a mistake, I'm sorry about that, I take responsibility," so going certainly a little further there in that definite apology.

Also as we look toward the first Democratic debate showdown next month hosted by CNN, I should mention, Bernie Sanders want the DNC to sanction more than the six debates that are currently on the schedule. Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has been especially vocal about this, and now Hillary Clinton has opens the door to the idea. She said, "A lot of people want more debates," and she said if the DNC adds them, she will be there with lots of enthusiasm and energy. So, we'll see.

TAPPER: All right. Brianna Keilar, thank you so much.

Let's talk about the Democratic field now with the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Thank you so much for being here.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DNC CHAIRWOMAN: My pleasure, Jake.

TAPPER: Appreciate it.

Well, let's start with that. There have been a lot of criticisms coming your way, directly at you, saying that the six debates total, four before anybody starts voting is not enough, and it's an attempt by the DNC to stack the decks in favor of Hillary Clinton.

[16:20:13] Now that Hillary Clinton has said she's willing to do more, she will do it with energy and enthusiasm -- are you going to say, let's have a few more debates?

SCHULTZ: We're thrilled that our candidates are coming at our debate process with energy and enthusiasm and looking forward to them, as we established the process we were going to go through to lead to six debates to have a sanctioned debate process at times so we could make sure there was control.

TAPPER: That means you're going to punish people if they do non-DNC debates?

SCHULTZ: It means that we are going to make sure our candidates commit to participating in the DNC-sanctioned debates. One of the bits of advice I got from a number of my predecessors, was that it was important to make sure the debate calendar doesn't get out of control. It's critical during the campaigning process, particularly in the early primary states that our candidates have an opportunity to have a chance to be in those retail settings where Iowa voters, New Hampshire voters kick the tires and --

TAPPER: OK, but, Congresswoman, can I just say something? I mean, like you had 20 something debates in 20 --

SCHULTZ: No, we didn't. We had six.

TAPPER: No, you didn't, but the Democratic candidates had 20- something debates. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, it didn't work out so badly for you guys. Obama and Hillary went at each other, they both got stronger, and you guys went on to take the White House.

SCHULTZ: Jake at the time, we had something like nine candidates. We have five candidates now. We have four debates, one in each early primary state prior to the caucuses and primaries, and then we'll have two following, they are in a variety of media outlets, a lot of diversity. We are hosting six debates which is what we hosted in 2004 and 2008. And, look, a debate is not the only way in which you can reach a voter. In fact, it's really important as I started to say, that especially in the early primary states, the candidates have time to get out and campaign in a retail way. You can already see the enthusiasm that is building.

Just one second -- you can already see the enthusiasm that's building. Bernie Sanders is drawing huge crowds.

TAPPER: And he wants more debates?

SCHULTZ: Well, and there are a lot --

TAPPER: The same as Martin O'Malley and Hillary Clinton.

SCHULTZ: And we're glad that there's enthusiasm about debates, debates are not the only way to get your message out to voters. There have been about a dozen candidate forums, in which a variety of our candidates have participated. There's at least a half a dozen more, we expect there to be more. But six debates is what the DNC.

TAPPER: Of course, 24 million people watched the last presidential debate. It's a way to reach more people. It's also a way to draw differences, but --

SCHULTZ: We'll have a chance to draw contrast between the Republicans who want to build a wall with Canada and boot the immigrants out of the country.

TAPPER: We have plenty of time for that. Let me ask you, specifically -- people say you did this, the DNC did this in collusion with the Clinton campaign to limit debates, so that Hillary Clinton could have an easier time getting the nomination.

SCHULTZ: Right. And today, someone else -- some other reporter said that the reason we scheduled the debates later in October is because I'm in the tank for Joe Biden. So, you know, people are going to say whatever they -- I have a --

TAPPER: I don't know who that guy is, but that's crazy.

SCHULTZ: I have a party I have to run. I have to simultaneously manage the nominating contest for our eventual nominee and get ready for the general election. There are lots of things that have to be done to make sure the national Democratic Party is ready to support our nominee.

And so, like I said, we're glad that the candidates are enthusiastic about our debates. That is one way they have an opportunity to reach voters and the six debates that we will have will be effective in helping them reach our voters in that way, and they'll have lots of other chances to reach voters in other ways.

TAPPER: DNC chair and congresswoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thank you. Wasserman Schultz, thank you so much for coming here. SCHULTZ: You can say that again.

TAPPER: I really appreciate it. Good to see you.

SCHULTZ: You're welcome. Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: If you thought that was it for our politics lead today, you will be wrong. We will ask a Democratic presidential candidate demanding more debates what he thinks about the chairwoman's answer later in the show.

He's back on the trail after a vacation, and after a new poll shows number two creeping closer to Donald Trump in Iowa. Ben Carson is taking reporter's questions in San Francisco right now. Let's take a quick listen.

BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- to protect the First Amendment rights of all American citizens. This needs to be a wakeup call for them. They can't just sit around and expect the problem to resolve itself.

This is the tip of the iceberg compared to what's going to happen. Let's get out ahead of this and fix it.

REPORTER: Dr. Carson, you're taking a crowded Republican field. You have a very different style than the frontrunner Donald Trump. So, what makes you unique? How do you separate yourself from the pack?

CARSON: Well, I really don't spend a lot of time thinking about separating myself from the pack. I spend a lot of time thinking about logical, pragmatic ways to actually deal with the problems.

[16:25:01] You know, I have -- I'm not going to be a traditional politician, so I'm not going to do things like traditional politicians do. That in and of itself will probably separate me from the panel.

REPORTER: Dr. Carson, people on both sides of the aisle will respect for what you have done during your career. Great deal.

My question is, how does that qualify you to deal with ISIS, North Korea, ayatollahs of Iran? How does that qualification --

CARSON: Well, the way I kind of look at it, there are those who feel that the only people who can actually come up with solutions are people with a lot of political experience. But if you take the political collective experience of Congress, it comes out to almost 9,000 years, what has it done for us?

You know, I would much rather deal with somebody who thinks logically, who has the ability to acquire a lot of information, to use experts as a specialist in medicine. You know, I know a great deal about the brain and about the central nervous system. And I obviously know a lot more than most people about the kidney. But if I have somebody with a kidney problem, guess what? I'm going to get a renal specialist. And, you know, by the same token, there's nobody who knows everything.

And I think the people who do the best are the ones who know how to utilize experts around them.

REPORTER: You said that you do no harm. How do you square that with the reality you'll have to send soldiers (INAUDIBLE) and all those people to certain deaths based (INAUDIBLE) we have at present. How do you square that with your oath to do no harm?

CARSON: Well, you know, as a surgeon, when somebody has a tumor, that's compressing a vital area of the brain, I have to actually go in and cut them. Now, that doesn't seem like a nice thing to do. I have to open their head up and to go in there and I had to expose them to danger.

But the long term goal is to preserve their life. And when we look at something like the global jihadist moment and their goals, the sooner we eradicate them, the less damage they can do. If you leave that tumor there, it's going to kill you.

REPORTER: Dr. Carson, a lot of your fellow Republicans (INAUDIBLE)

What do you -- do you feel any pressure to do that? And what do you think of Silicon Valley as a (INAUDIBLE) growth in this?

CARSON: Well, you know, Silicon Valley is a very important part of America. A lot of good things have come out of that. I'm very supportive of it. I'm supportive of every aspect of our economy.

But I don't feel any particular need to come out and do something special.

REPORTER: Do you have any friends in the tech community --

CARSON: Excuse me?

REPORTER: Do you have any big supporters in this technology community, do you have friends --

TAPPER: More in our politics lead. You heard it here. Just moments, the current Democratic debate schedule defended. But one candidate is on a mission to change the itinerary and try to get more air time going against Hillary Clinton and others, does he have a chance? Will his aggressive campaign on this issue work? That governor will join me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)