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Pope Touches Down On U.S. Soil For The First Time; Pope Francis Scheduled For White House Visit Tomorrow; Pope's Visit Deemed "National Special Security Event." Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired September 22, 2015 - 16:30   ET


[16:30:13] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: I don't get any inkling that he actually wants to change Catholic doctrine at all, that it is what it is.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: What happened is that, the very first interview that Pope Francis gave when he was pope, he said, we don't need to talk so much about abortion, gay marriage and birth control, and that...

TAPPER: But he wants the emphasis -- the emphasis to be poverty and mercy, as you say.

GALLAGHER: He wants the emphasis to be on environment, immigration, the things that we're hearing about.

But what happened to, I think, the conservative Catholic side is they said, well, wait a minute, you know, abortion, and gay marriage, and birth control are -- sort of have been certainly in this country fundamental identifiers for conservative Catholics.

And so in the first instance, they felt, you know, this was kind of a strange thing for a pope to be saying. And then he came out with an encyclical on the environment and a lot on immigration. And so certainly there, I think, is still, at least there was, a question, in some conservatives' mind as to, which way does the pope want to go?

And that's what's interesting about what he said on the papal plane, that I'm not a lefty, because he's responding to that. And so...


TAPPER: He's saying what I believe is exactly in keeping with Scripture, with the Gospel.

GALLAGHER: Absolutely.

TAPPER: And it's really just a question, I think, for the likes of us to say the emphasis might be a little different, but he's not going to change his position on abortion or same-sex marriage or birth control.

GALLAGHER: No, no. And I think that should be clear for both sides.

But he is bringing in a lot of the other issues which typically in this country we think of as left.

TAPPER: Right.

Delia Gallagher, stay with us. Everyone else, stay with us.

The pope's message clearly resonating with millions as he arrives in the United States. Our coverage of this historic visit continues. We are going to take a very break.

We will be right back.



TAPPER: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Jake Tapper with THE LEAD.

Just minutes ago, we saw His Holiness, Pope Francis, touch down on U.S. soil for the very first time, President Obama and his family and Vice President Biden and his family among the ones greeting the pontiff.

On the left side of your screen, you can see crowds gathering -- there it is -- at the Vatican ambassador's residence and the Vatican Embassy, where the pope is expected to arrive any minute now.

Just for those not familiar with Washington, D.C., geography, that's on Massachusetts Avenue, right across the street from the vice president's residency.

Let's go back now to our man on the ground at Joint Base Andrews, where the pope just touched down minutes ago, CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto.

Jim, what is the pontiff's itinerary after he arrives at the Vatican Embassy here?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Jake, it's going to be a quiet night, in large part because the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur is starting tonight. So, he's going to the papal nuncio, which, as it happens, is right across from the vice president's residence on Observatory Circle, and have a night of rest, a quiet night, before he gets much busier tomorrow, starting of course with that visit to the White House.

What we saw here really a pretty brief welcome. He landed, he met with the president for -- and the vice president and others for a few minutes, and driving in that little Fiat back to D.C., to the papal nuncio, where he will have a relatively quiet first evening in the United States for him.

TAPPER: Jim Sciutto, thanks so much.

President Obama, of course, expected to meet with the pope at the White House tomorrow. This will be the third time that a pope has met with a U.S. president at the White House. Then, on Thursday, the pontiff will address a joint session of Congress, which is quite unusual for a pontiff.

We have CNN's Jim Acosta at the White House and Manu Raju at the Capitol to cover it all.

Jim, let me start with you at the White House.

We saw President Obama greet the pope at Joint Base Andrews. Tomorrow, the big Oval Office meeting. What's on the agenda?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And I was just about to saying, Jake, I think there's plenty of space to park that Fiat here at the White House.

The pope is going to get a very big welcome here. Just to start the day off, Jake, keep in mind, there's going to be an official arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House. They're expecting 15,000 people to cram into the South Lawn to witness all of that.

And then, yes, the day's big event will be that one-on-one meeting between President Obama and Pope Francis. I'm told by officials here that there will be no other senior administration officials in the room. Vice President Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, they will in a separate room meeting with Vatican officials. It will just be the president, and the pope and translators.

And they will have a lot to talk about. What they will talk about, though, is sort of a closely guarded secret, Jake. The White House is keeping their pope cards close to the vest. But, you know, if past is prologue, then obviously they're going to be talking about these issues that they have in common, income inequality, immigration, climate change, Cuba, the Iran nuclear deal.

The pope has signed off essentially on the Iran nuclear deal. And it's interesting to note, Jake, that they are in a way admitting that they don't know what to expect. Last year, when we were following the president and his visit with Pope Francis in Rome, I asked the president, well, did you talk about this contraception controversy in Obamacare? And the president said, no, that didn't come up at all. We talked about immigration and some other issues that the pope wanted to discuss.

So, sometimes, the White House preps for what they think the pope will want to talk about, but he wants to talk about something else, Jake.


TAPPER: We're looking right now at images from His Holiness, the pope, on the papal plane.

He spoke with reporters. Let's listen in a little bit.


POPE FRANCIS, LEADER OF CATHOLIC CHURCH (through translator): Well, that is part of the negotiations. It's public. Both presidents have mentioned it.

I know it's public domain. It is in works toward good relations. That is what they're looking forward to. And let's see if it goes to good resolution, good agreement to satisfy both parties, an agreement.

And regarding the holy church and the Holy See, regarding embargoes, other popes have already talked about this, not only this embargo, but other...


TAPPER: You're listening to a press conference and the translation thereof, Pope Francis on the papal plane, flying from Cuba to the United States. He's talking about the Cuban embargo, and whether or not he's going to ask Congress to lift the embargo against Cuba when he speaks to Congress.


POPE FRANCIS (through translator): I will not reveal at this point what I will be talking about.

But I am trying to think about what I'm going to mention and say. But, no, specifically, this issue, in general, in general, the issue of agreements, bilateral or not lateral, are signs of progress.


TAPPER: Let's bring in Manu Raju, who is covering Capitol Hill for CNN.

Manu, a number of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle don't exactly line up with all of the views of the pope and the Catholic Church. One lawmaker, we have heard, is even talking about boycotting the pope's speech to Congress. What are you hearing on the Hill?

MANU RAJU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, it's really a mix of apprehension and excitement, excitement because, of course, this is such a historic visit.

This is the first time ever a pope has addressed a joint session of Congress, but also apprehension because they are very uncertain about what the pope will say. Of course, this is a pope that has espoused very -- views oftentimes deviating from the Republicans who do dominate Capitol Hill.

And they're unsure about the positions that he will take. And what's interesting is that the leadership, particularly on the Republican side, is really sending out the message that they want their folks just to behave. They don't want any outbursts. Remember, of course, we saw that 2009 speech in which President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress, and a congressman yelled out "You lie."

They don't want to see anything like that. They're saying that they want both sides of the aisle to behave and not treat this like a State of the Union address, when the mood is a little bit more partisan. So, we will see if members actually abide by that, because they know this is such a huge and significant event. And we will all be talking about it and it's going to be broadcast worldwide.

TAPPER: Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you both.

Protecting the pope has become a massive coordinated effort as he comes in contact with unpredictable crowds. And, frankly, he is an unpredictable pope. The orchestrated endeavor to keep him safe -- next on THE LEAD.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. You're looking at live pictures right now of crowds gathering outside the Vatican Embassy to the United States. It's also where the Vatican ambassador lives. It's where the pope is headed, imminently.

Let's bring in CNN justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, and CNN aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh. Pamela, Rene, you see these crowds and you think, this is a pope who was known for breaking script and running into the crowds.

He likes that much more than he likes hanging out with dignitaries, a real challenge for Secret Service and other law enforcement officials.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: A real challenge. I can tell you, Jake, from the law enforcement officials I've been speaking with, there has been a lot of concern, people are very anxious about this. And, as you point out, that's because this is a pope who wants to be accessible to the people.

He wants to be able to interact with the crowd. We've seen it when he's visited other countries and expect to see it when he visits -- during his six-day visit here in the United States. He is expected to be in a somewhat unprotected open air pope mobile going through these massive crowds.

And we know the Secret Service is, of course, leading the charge of law enforcement in the months leading up to this visit, Jake, we've learned that the Secret Service director actually went to the Vatican, visited with head of security over there. Watched the pope interact with crowds to get a sense of how security

should be here in the United States in anticipation of this visit. And we see some of the measures already, Jake, with this visit. We saw the barriers there at Vatican Embassy. We see lots of security.

There's a lot we're not going to see that is part of the security preparations and protocol. There are some unusual measures. We've learned that $15 million was spent by the Secret Service renting bike racks to keep the crowds at bay, create barriers.

Also we know that the NYPD police commissioner said they will have ten miles of streets closed at once when he visits New York later in the week. [16:50:11] And there are also some unusual measures being taken as we have talked about, you can't have selfie sticks, crowds can't have that. There can't be drones in New York so a number of steps being taken here -- Jake.

TAPPER: And speaking of drones, Rene Marsh, what's the new wrinkle in security from the last time a pope visited, Pope Benedict in 2008, a new challenge for law enforcement and national security officials when it comes to what might be in the air.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Right, so we know the pope is on land, but we saw the live pictures here right here on THE LEAD as he was entering U.S. airspace. I can tell you that, more than 150 agencies, they are locked in on the U.S. airspace.

The new concern for many of them is those low, slow flying aircraft like drones, things of that nature that they simply cannot pick up on radar. So it really is going to come down to, Jake, keeping their eyes peeled, peep on top of buildings, with binoculars, taking a close look.

Because it comes down to this, because of low, slow flying drones do not get picked up on radar, the concern is an individual may launch it just within yards from the pope and now you have something that is flying dangerously close to this high-level guest, and that is just something that the Secret Service doesn't want to see or any other security agency.

So that's their biggest concern, how do they track this sort of thing? How do they keep their eyes peeled for this sort of thing? How do they safely intercept it so that the pope essentially is not harmed and no one else nearby?

So I can tell you that airspace security is top of mind. Not only with him landing here, but for all of those open air events that Pamela just discussed. Of course, from Washington, D.C., he's going to be going to New York, Philly, and then back to Rome.

TAPPER: All right, Rene Marsh and Pamela Brown, thank you so much. Tomorrow, Pope Francis will make his way to the White House for meetings with President Obama.

CNN political commentators, Ana Navarro and Donna Brazile, will join us in a minute. Right now, we are awaiting the arrival of Pope Francis. We see, I believe, the motorcade pulling in.

What that shot is of is a crowd that is gathered outside the Vatican Embassy and the Vatican ambassador's residence. Cars are pulling up. Let see if we can get a good camera angle on that.

You can hear the crowd's excitement as they're seeing what our camera position is failing to pick up now, at rival of these cars and the pope's motorcade, first ever visit by Pope Francis to the United States. He is only the fourth pope in the history of this country to visit the United States. Jim Sciutto joins us where the pope touched down, Joint Base Andrews.

Jim, we were talking with Pamela and Rene about the extraordinary security precautions being taken for this visit. Here is the motorcade right now being led by the Metropolitan Police Department SUV and more pulling up.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I tell you, Jake, that little stretch of road where the people -- rather the Vatican residence is right across the street from the vice president's residence has to be one of the most secure stretches of road in the country right now.

TAPPER: Jim, let's listen in as the pope gets out and is greeted by this crowd.

If you're just joining us, we're looking at live pictures of Pope Francis having arrived at Vatican's Embassy, where he'll be staying this evening. He has a very busy schedule on this trip, but this evening he gets a break.

Partly we are told out of respect for the fact that tonight is the holiest night of the Jewish year, the night of Yom Kippur.

[16:55:12] The pope waving to the crowd. He just walked in with the Vatican ambassador.

Father Beck is with us. This is some admirable restraint, Father Beck, because I know this pope is somebody who loves to not to crowd surf, but you see the crowd and he likes to talk to the people, he likes to embrace the people. And so far we've seen him restrain himself, although that's not going to hold for the whole trip.

FATHER EDWARD BECK: No, I'm sure it's not. Jake, I've been thinking of this anecdote from his young life studying chemistry and science and his mother wanted him to be a doctor. She found these theology and philosophy books and said to him, Son, you've lied to me, and he said to her Mama, I'm studying medicine for souls.

And I can't help but think that now he's trying to bring the church back to its true doctrine, to tend suffering souls. The image he's put forth is a field hospital tending wounded and so as he comes to this country, yes, I think you're right.

He wants to wade into the crowds, but he wants to really address are the left behind ones, the ones that can't even make it to the crowd, the forgotten ones. I think that's his mission as he comes here to this U.S.

TAPPER: And I know that there are many, many stops on his schedule where he will get an opportunity to interact directly with some of those who have been left behind by society to a degree or another.

Joining me right now, CNN political commentators, Ana Navarro and Donna Brazile, both of them will be in attendance tomorrow at the White House when the pope visits that building, only the third pope to do so. Ana, what are you hoping to hear from the pope?

ANA NAVARROK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm just hoping to hear a message of mercy. Having him tell us be good to each other. I think just bring his spirituality. I'm not hoping to hear politics. I'm not going to hear Pope Francis because I see him as a political leader. He's a spiritual leader. He means so much for Catholics.

Donna and I are different side of the political spectrum. I can tell you, we've been watching this from the green room, sharing in the excitement that I think most Catholics around the United States are feeling today of knowing that the pope is on U.S. soil. So for today, let's be papal commentators instead of political ones.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm with you on that. I'm a cradle catholic like Ana. I've been involved in Catholic Church activities all of my life. I signed the pledge to walk with Francis. Pope Francis says something recently that struck me. He said I want a church that's able to get into the street.

I'd rather have a bruised church than a steal one. This is a very exciting moment. I've been to the Vatican on numerous occasions but never met a pope in my entire life. I told Ana we're going to be on time tomorrow.

NAVARRO: I was at the Vatican last year for the canonization of two popes, I was invited to the Vatican and just being near him, energy of peace that he projects, something very similar to what I felt when I attended a mass with John Paul in Miami, when he first visited here, John Paul II.

So, you know, I think that we have to bask in the significance of his visit. I don't want to parse the politics of. I don't think he's a Democrat. I don't think he's a Republican.

I'm certainly not going to have a partisan fight over what the pope says. Let's just, you know, get his blessings and his teachings and talk about unity and some of the good things that he's bringing.

TAPPER: Donna, we know that President Obama and of course, Vice President Biden, but talk about President Obama, has a good relationship with this pope and a deep admiration for him.

BRAZILE: Yes. When I saw the pope get off of the plane, the president embraced him, the president admires the pope for not only his work but the way he leads by example. I'm sure tomorrow when they have an opportunity to talk privately, get a debriefing on the pope's visit to Cuba, but also to welcome the pope to America. We forget, this is his first trip to the United States. Welcome, Mr. Pope.

NAVARRO: I'm looking forward to hearing him speak English. We've never heard him speak English before. I have a feeling his accent might be stronger than mine.

TAPPER: Ana Navarro, Donna Brazile, thanks for your insights. Watch CNN this evening for a special report "The People's Pope," how did Pope Francis became a rock star worldwide? Find out tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" right now.