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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Clinton: "There Isn't Anybody Who Hasn't Changed A Position"; Carly Fiorina Facing Drop In Polls; Pentagon Investigates Airstrike On Hospital. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired October 16, 2015 - 16:30   ET

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


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JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We're in beautiful Keene, New Hampshire. You just heard former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in our Politics Lead discuss everything from the state of the race for the Democratic nomination to what she called the Benghazi committee's evolution into a, quote, "Partisan arm of the Republican National Committee."

We also talked about much, much more. Let's talk about Clinton with Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter, and Republican political consultant, Eric Fehrnstrom. Welcome to you both.

Stephanie, let me start with you. Clinton told me that there isn't anybody in politics who hasn't changed a position, but in this case when your closest rival is to your left and then you lurch left from on so many things ranging from deportations, to guns, to trade, to environment.

You do run the risk of looking like somebody who is a politician willing to do anything to win, that's one of the ways that Obama in 2008, a campaign you worked for, tried to paint Clinton. Is Bernie Sanders and her opponents are they going to be able to do it to her again this time?

STEPHANIE CUTTER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, you know, I think she has a relevant point that there aren't any elected officials that haven't changed their position or major presidential candidates. And besides the things you're pointing to, actually universal gun background checks is not a left or right issue.

It's supported by the majority of the American people. She's pointed out some specific things in the trade agreement that she doesn't agree with. So I think it is fact specific and people are going to make their own conclusions.

But I think she makes a pretty good case of why you have to base your opinion and your positions based on current information and where the country is.

On guns and after dozens upon dozens of mass shootings including at a kindergarten class, I think that's pretty compelling in terms of wanting to keep guns out of the hands of people that shouldn't be having them. TAPPER: Eric, anything strike you from the interview? Was there anything in her answers about Benghazi or the e-mails that you thought might come back to haunt her?

[16:35:03] ERIC FEHRNSTROM, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL CONSULTANT: Well, you know what, Jake, I couldn't help but notice when you first raised the issue of her mishandling classified information. She laughed. I don't know if that's a nervous tick or if she really does think this is a big joke.

And it's not a partisan investigation that's being carried out by the FBI. That investigation is being carried out by the Obama administration, which is why it was completely inappropriate for the president of "60 Minutes" to come out and basically absolve her of compromising national security information by biasing the investigation that way.

I think he made it more imperative that the attorney general now come forward and make it clear that this is going to be a fair, thorough and objective investigation that she's going to go wherever the evidence leads.

And that Hillary Clinton is not going to be treated any differently than government employees in the past who have been found to have mishandled classified information.

TAPPER: The "New York Times" today reporting that there are individuals in the FBI, who were upset with President Obama saying that. Stephanie, let's talk about Joe Biden for a second. The new poll here in New Hampshire showing Hillary barely edging out Bernie Sanders.

Also shows that 50 percent of Democrats in granite state New Hampshire say that Biden should not run for president. Where do you think the status is of this decision, Stephanie?

CUTTER: Well, I don't know where the status is. You know, I'm reading the same press reports as you are that the decision is imminent. And I think he's thinking along and hard about this.

It's not an easy decision to make particularly after you've gone through some recent family tragedies like he's gone through. You know, if 50 percent of the people in New Hampshire say -- of Democrats in New Hampshire say that he shouldn't run for president, does that mean that 50 percent say that he should?

And if so that's not a bad place to be for somebody who hasn't even started to make their case. So I think that he'll make his decision on his terms. If he decides to run he'll take it to the trail and start making his case.

TAPPER: The 36 percent say he should run, Democrats in New Hampshire. Eric, I want to play something that Donald Trump said this morning about the 9/11 attacks. He said this on Bloomberg television. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want the World Trade Center came down during his time --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hold on. You can't blame George Bush for that.

TRUMP: He was president, OK. Don't blame him or don't blame him but he was president. The World Trade Center came down during his reign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, Jeb Bush in response tweeted a response saying how pathetic for Donald Trump to criticize the president for 9/11. We were attacked and my brother kept us safe. Eric, what do you make of this?

FEHRNSTROM: Well, I think it's best if we don't politicize national disasters like 9/11. There's no question that since that horrendous attack occurred George Bush kept the American people safe from another attack on the homeland.

I think it would be best if Donald Trump and other candidates refrain from politicizing national tragedies like 9/11. But look, Donald Trump he continues to be in command of the Republican field.

You know, I think the possibility, Jake, continues to grow that he based on the polling that we're seeing he could win the first four contests. If that happens, this race will be over in March.

And there's been some movement in the middle of the pack and it's possible that a Jeb Bush type candidate maybe Marco Rubio could emerge to make a strong run for the top.

TAPPER: Right.

FEHRNSTROM: But I think that's got to happen in the next 90 days or so. The risk of it not happening is that the establishment will become reconciled to the idea of a Trump nomination. And they will come to terms with it and coalesce around him. I think that would be if you're Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio or Chris Christie or any one of the others, it would be a disaster.

TAPPER: Definitely the clock's ticking. Eric Fehrnstrom, Stephanie Cutter, thank you both.

If you missed it the first time or you just really want to see it again, CNN's Democratic debate will replay again this evening at 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

On the Republican side, Carly Fiorina bringing in millions after her strong debate performance last month, but suddenly struggling in the polls, where has she been? That story next.

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[16:40:00]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Live from beautiful Keene, New Hampshire. We're going to continue with the politics lead as Hillary Clinton heads to her second event here in the granite state today. She might hear the echoes of one Mr. Donald J. Trump.

The GOP frontrunner will be literally down the road in a nearby town in Massachusetts. Then of course there is the other woman in the 2016 presidential race.

Today Carly Fiorina is in Iowa trying to keep up her post debate momentum. The big question, what's causing her recent sag in polls? Her message, her money or perhaps her graphic description of a video that fact checkers disputed.

I want to go right now to CNN's Sara Murray. Sara, leave it to a political campaign to put a spin on the negative numbers. What are they saying?

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're certainly trying to spin her numbers, but look, Jake, not everyone is buying it. A number of Republican donors tell me they gave Fiorina a look after CNN's debate. But they're already starting to worry her momentum has stalled.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY (voice-over): Carly Fiorina barn storming Iowa, relishing her newly competitive campaign war chest.

CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our trajectory is straight upwards. Others have been up and down.

MURRAY: Filling her coffers with $6.8 million, far more than the previous quarter and a good sign half of the money came from small donations that often signal grassroots momentum. After enjoying a bump in the polls with moments like this in CNN's GOP debate --

[16:45:09] FIORINA: You know, it's interesting to me. Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly and what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.

MURRAY: Fiorina's campaign seems to have lost some of its shine. A CNN/ORC nationwide poll had her in second place in mid-September just behind Donald Trump with 15 percent support.

FIORINA: You know something's going right, you know you're rising in the polls, you know you have momentum when the other side starts attacking hard.

MURRAY: Just weeks later she's fallen to sixth place in a new Fox News poll with just 5 percent support nationally. A drop Fiorina brushed off today.

FIORINA: We're number two in New Hampshire. We're number three in Iowa. We're number two in Nevada. We're way up there in South Carolina and so those are the polls that matter most to me.

MURRAY: What's to blame? Critics point to this moment during the debate.

FIORINA: As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.

MURRAY: But even as fact check showed the video didn't exist, Fiorina didn't back off and may have missed an opportunity to widen her appeal. And her campaign has struggled to counter stories about her tumultuous tenure as CEO of Hewlett-Packard.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: They could be problematic mainly because Donald Trump has been willing to go after her on her business experiences, which is she needs to make it more of a character question.

MURRAY: A third GOP debate is set for later this month and it could be her best shot at reversing her flight in the polls.

FIORINA: I've been tested and this battle does not scare me, but what scares me is the way the nation is going.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, Fiorina is not wrong. Those early state polls have definitely been more promising for her. That's what her campaign is pointing to. They say it's pleased with her performance and has no plans to change her strategy -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Sara Murray, thank you so much. The World Lead now, an unholy mess in the holy land, day of rage, fires burning, tear gas flying and knife slashing as Secretary of State John Kerry makes plans to try and stop what seems could be an all-out war.

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[16:51:19]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We are live in first in the nation primary state New Hampshire. Now we're going to turn to the World Lead. Bethlehem in flames as Hamas, the group recognized as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, calls for a day of rage.

Violence between Israel and the Palestinians is spiraling out of control as we learn today that the Secretary of State John Kerry will try to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week.

Also in the west bank, a compound housing Joseph's Tomb was set on fire. It's a holy site for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. It was set on fire apparently by Palestinians. All this violence comes as yet another Israeli citizen, this time a soldier, was stabbed by a Palestinian man disguised as a photographer.

The Palestinian man was shot and killed by Israeli forces. Also in world news today, exactly how did a U.S. team bomb a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan?

Well, now that question may be much harder to answer. The initial October 3rd attack killed 12 medical staff and 10 patients. Three of them were children. The group says what evidence was left in the burned out facility has been since destroyed.

The news coming as we learn what the military knew before the bombing. CNN's Barbara Starr has the latest -- Barbara.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: CNN has learned that U.S. military investigators have found the U.S. did know this was a hospital being run by the medical group, Doctors Without Borders, in Northern Afghanistan.

Two U.S. officials tell CNN the location was in a U.S. military database. One official saying the medical group did everything right. Twenty two people including 12 medical staffs and three children killed in the U.S. attack October 3rd.

Doctors Without Borders says there has been more trouble. An armored vehicle carrying military investigators forced its way into the wrecked compound causing damage and potentially destroying evidence.

JASON CONE, U.S. EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS: It's just another example for us of how this investigation is unfolding in a way that really necessitates an independent investigation.

STARR: Still, U.S. investigators trying to answer the questions. How did it happen, who ordered the aircraft to fire? Other key questions, did the knowledge it was a hospital get passed along?

When an AC-130 gunship struck, did the air crew and the U.S. special operations forces on the ground know it was a hospital? If they did, did they realize striking the hospital is against U.S. military rules even if Taliban are there?

GENERAL JOHN CAMPBELL, COMMANDER OF U.S. FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN: A hospital was mistakenly struck. We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility.

STARR: Defense Secretary Ash Carter says all the video and audio recordings are being reviewed, but promising everyone will have their say.

ASHTON CARTER, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There other data as well and make sure we have the full story.

CONE: The only theory we have is we had a hospital fully operational, full of staff with patients up to 200 patients and staff. It was bombed. It's one of the hugest loss of life that we've ever experienced as an organization. It is one of the most clear cut cases that we can think of where the laws of wars have been violated.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Doctors Without Borders says it was so quiet and calm at the hospital that they were actually able to schedule surgeries that had been put off earlier due to fighting in the area -- Jake.

[16:55:09] TAPPER: Barbara Starr, it's such a tragic story. Thank you so much.

Breaking news now, a source saying NBA star, Lamar Odom has regained consciousness and Odom was able to speak to Khloe Kardashian, who has been by his side. That breaking news next.

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TAPPER: We have some breaking news in the Pop Culture Lead. Word that Lamar Odom, the two-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers also known for marrying into the Kardashian clan, woke up today and was able to speak.

A source close to the situation telling CNN that the former basketball star told Khloe Kardashian, hi, was the statement he said. But his condition remains guarded and it's not clear if he's still awake right now.

But this is good news for people watching the story.