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Interview With Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum; Trump Leading Presidential Polls; Chaos in Syria; CNN Poll: Trump, Carson Supporters are Enthusiastic; Interview with Rick Santorum; Biden, Clinton Cold War Heating Up. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired October 20, 2015 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: As we speak, intense scramble to save men, women and children as airstrikes begin to ramp up in Syria.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The world lead, families rushing to find any shelter they can as bullets and bombs fly overhead, the chaos in Syria, as fear of a new uprising looms nearby between Israelis and Palestinians, the head of the United Nations now warning of a dangerous escalation amplified by new terrorist attacks.

The politics lead, a longtime Jeb Bush ally calling Donald Trump a -- quote -- "false zombie front-runner" who is -- quote -- "dead politically" and will -- quote -- "never be president of the United States ever." Well, tell that to the Republican voters, who have Trump large and in charge in our latest poll, with Ben Carson number two. Now the front-runner tells CNN that a Trump/Carson 2016 ticket might not be such a bad idea.

And the national lead, two self-proclaimed hackers are now telling CNN how they breached the CIA director's personal e-mail account and possibly others. The question is now, does the government even know who they are?

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

We are going to begin today with our world lead, the Middle East, where chaos rules and fear grows by the minute. In Israel, terrorist attacks are spreading with frightening frequency, and in Syria, the presence of Russian and Iranian forces complicating an already dire situation as families there brace for winter and for what may be the deadliest battle of this long, brutal civil war.

Right now, Syria's ambassador to Russia is issuing a warning that the Assad regime is preparing to launch an all-out offensive on the Syrian city of Aleppo. That's a rebel stronghold. It's something the Assad regime can try now that it has help from Russian fighter jets. As of a few hours ago, these Russian jets now have a -- quote -- "understanding" with U.S.-led coalition forces that have been bombing ISIS in the region for more than a year. The Pentagon announcing today that the U.S. and Russia inked a memo

governing rules in the skies over Syria. But as has happened from day one in this brutal conflict, innocent Syrian civilians are the ones caught in the crosshairs, startling new video shows bombs exploding and panicked families taking cover under mattresses.

Let's get right to CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh. He's in Southern Turkey, just about 75 miles from Aleppo.

Nick, CNN can't verify authenticity of that video, but it appears to show what the stakes are for so many people inside Syria right now.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, we just actually heard from the U.N. just now that previously yesterday they said 35,000 people had been displaced by that wave of fighting, by that wave of Syrian troops, Iranian militia and Iranian troops too.

They're large in number and it seems heading north through the southern countryside you're seeing now towards that target, what used to be the most popular city in Syria, Aleppo. Now we're hearing from the U.N. that in fact it's 50,000 people now today who they think have been displaced by this and they're trying maybe to get aid across the border into -- but the real question, where can these people go?

They can't go north towards a city that is targeted in a battle. They can't go east because ISIS are there. They can't go west because there's more fighting. They are basically trapped where they are. And these are, of course, the least fortunate, unable to flee, throughout this four-year war and stuck inside.

But the complexity, as you mentioned there, just growing day by day -- Russia's made its punchy geopolitical point about wanting to come up close to NATO and U.S. jets. But, today, they made another point by releasing a quite obvious video of them tailing what looks like a U.S. drone, one of their jets flying under and around it.

So it's clear that this battle may happen soon. Frankly, when it was first announced, I thought it pretty far-fetched. It's such a huge city to try and retake, the rebel-held area ground to dust. I remember being there last year. The smell of burning plastic just being burned to keep people warm was so intense. It's going to be a very messy fight.

Those troops, regime and Iranian troops, might try and encircle rebel areas. That's the more likely easier option and starve those left inside out. But it's going to yield an enormous humanitarian crisis and just take this war where you keep thinking things couldn't get worse to yet another level -- Jake.

TAPPER: Nick Paton Walsh in Southern Turkey, thank you, my friend.

Staying in the region, but moving to Israel now, where we have two new terrorist attacks and a hit-and-run to report. At least eight Israelis and 45 Palestinians have been killed in this latest spate of violence, this all coming as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon issues a desperate plea for calm while visiting the region. CNN's Oren Liebermann is in Jerusalem.

Oren, take us through what happened today.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Jake, reports of a third attack coming in just a short while ago.


The IDF says two attackers approached an Israeli soldier near the West Bank city of Hebron and attempted to stab him, injuring him lightly. Forces at the scene, Israeli soldiers there, opened fire, shooting and killing the two alleged attackers, that just a few hours ago.

Earlier than that, the IDF says a Palestinian driver rammed his car into a bus stop, again near Hebron, injuring a soldier and a civilian, before forces at that scene shot and killed that alleged attacker.

And then much earlier today, the IDF saying another Palestinian went up to an Israeli soldier, stabbed him, lightly wounding him, before forces there shot and killed there, the violence here continuing.

And there is one more incident, a hit-and-run that killed an Israeli, with the IDF sure -- unsure right now if this one was an attack or was unintentional. Emergency services say an Israeli driver near the city of Hebron was driving when Palestinians threw stones at his car. He got out of the car. AP photos show him wielding a wooden club, as if to hit passing drivers, when a Palestinian truck or a West Bank truck hits and kills the driver.

The IDF says the driver's under investigation, not calling this attack yet. This one may have been unintentional -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Oren Liebermann live in Jerusalem, Oren, thank you so much.

And joining me to talk about the escalating tensions across the entire region is Republican presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.

Thanks so much for being here, Senator.


TAPPER: So, each day seems to get progressively worse in Israel. What would you be doing if you were president right now?

SANTORUM: Well, I think one of the reasons you're seeing this escalation is because we have a -- we had all these assurances by this administration that they were get some sort of peace agreement, and there was high expectations, and those expectations weren't realized.

And those expectations were not realized. The expectations were driven by the United States of America, driven by a president and a secretary of state that wanted to get a deal at any cost, in my opinion. And now you're seeing the ramifications, which are people are frustrated. They're angry. They had high expectations, expectations laid down, and they're -- they're attacking Israel. And they're attacking Israel at a time when the United States' relations with Israel is not strong. And they maybe see that this is an opportunity with all the other violence going on in the region to make some gains.

TAPPER: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon saying today that -- quote -- "We must create conditions for meaningful negotiations that will end the occupation and realize the aspirations of both people."

Do you think that there can ever be peace as long as Israel's occupying the West Bank and controlling what comes in and out of Gaza, or do you not even buy that...


SANTORUM: Look, I don't buy the whole idea that the United States, United Nations calling it an occupation.

This is Israel. Israel is the area in which...

TAPPER: Including West Bank?

SANTORUM: That's part of Israel. Is Southwestern United States part of the United States? It was taken from Mexico, arguably.

And the answer is that that is Israel's territory. It's Israel's -- it's sovereign territory that they hold, and they have a right to be able to determine what the -- how they either decide to cleave it off or not cleave it off or to deal with it.

But here you are, you have a country with a sovereign area that the United Nations and the United States now through particularly this administration is trying to force a solution that doesn't comport with their national security interests. And I think we...


TAPPER: You don't support a two-state solution?

SANTORUM: I support a solution that the Israeli government is able to negotiate with the Palestinians.

I don't think it's our obligation or our right, candidly, to dictate a solution. I think allies support allies and try to build relationships to be able to get a solution that's workable. Obviously, and most Israelis support some sort of two-state solution. That's great. I will support our allies and what they want to accomplish, but I don't believe in -- U.S. policy should be dictating to an ally what their solution should be.

TAPPER: Very quickly, just turning to Syria, the U.S. and Russia today announcing a cooperative agreement for both countries to avoid any conflicts in the air.

Do you think that that agreement undermines the United States in any way, or do you see that as just a constructive next step?

SANTORUM: I don't think there are any -- a whole lot of constructive next steps going on in Syria right now.

The president's put us in a position where there are no good options. And so we have to take, I would argue, the least bad option, which is the Russians' involvement in trying to displace -- hopefully displace Iran from the principal figure of supporting Assad, and hopefully eventually helping to fight ISIS.

That's not exactly what's go on right now, as you know.


SANTORUM: And so we had all these promises by Putin that he was going to join the battle against ISIS, and what he's done is try to join the battle to try to solidify Assad and take out rebel forces.

So, again, we have a whole bunch of bad options. I think probably having a -- some sort of air agreement is a reasonable start down this process.

TAPPER: Senator Santorum, stay with us.

We want to get your views in the next panel, as well as the next block as well.

I also want to thank him for being here.

We are going to talk right now about the fight to stay in the mix for Senator Santorum in this tough Republican field, 15 candidates. Only two are cracking double digits in CNN's new GOP poll, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, leaving little room for competition. And now the question, could they even join forces?


Stay with us. We will be right back.


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

We're going to turn now to our politics lead, the Republican race for president, a close ally of Jeb Bush today calling Donald Trump a -- quote -- "zombie front-runner who is dead politically and just does not yet know it."

That's, of course, not what Republican voters think right now. Trump and Dr. Ben Carson are holding their spots as the clear number one and number two, respectively, in our brand-new CNN/ORC poll, Trump with 27 percent, Carson with 22.

We have asked Republican presidential candidate and former Senator Rick Santorum to stick around and weigh in on this and all the politics of the day. But, first, I want to bring in CNN chief political correspondent Dana


Dana, we've seen Trump lead the overall Republican field for the better part of four months now.

[16:15:02] But even when you look into the poll, when you dive in, his support's solid.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It really is. It's not stopped Jeb bush, in particular, trying to chip away at that support.

For example, just in the last hour, he has released an op-ed on the conservative "National Review" Web site, talking about how Trump is inept, liberal on foreign policy. He compared him to the liberal filmmaker Michael Moore, and even said that Trump's campaign is a reality TV show. Unfortunately for Bush, it's one GOP voters show no sign of turning off.


BASH (voice-over): It may be a crowded Republican presidential field, but only two men are firmly on top, Donald Trump and Ben Carson. A combined two-thirds of GOP voters now say Trump and Carson are their first and second choice, according to CNN/ORC's new poll.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've hit a chord. We are both resonating. There's no question about it.

BASH: It's not just that Trump and Carson have support. It's that their supporters are excited about them, which makes them more likely to go out and vote.

Thirty percent of Trump supporters are very enthusiastic, 25 percent of Carson's.

By contrast, only 3 percent of Jeb Bush voters are enthusiastic about him, as he steps up criticism of Trump as commander in chief.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to be much more forceful, but here to protect the homeland, as well as overseas to create a strategy to unite the world against this grave threat. And I don't believe Donald Trump has capability of doing that.

BASH: Trump is sending some mixed signals on foreign policy. In an interview this morning with CNN's "NEW DAY," he said invading Afghanistan after 9/11 was a right move.

TRUMP: We were safe in a sense, but went into Iraq, which was a disaster decision. Just a disastrous decision. Not Afghanistan, because that's probably where we should have gone in the first place.

BASH: But just two weeks ago on the same CNN program, he said the opposite.

TRUMP: We made a terrible mistake getting involved in the first place. We had real brilliant thinkers that didn't know what the hell they were doing.

BASH: When reminded of that today, Trump denied flip-flopping.

TRUMP: I haven't said it. Look, Afghanistan is a different thing. It's next to Pakistan and Pakistan has nuclear weapons, OK?

BASH: The Trump confusion and controversy has not hurt him in the past. For example, despite questionable remarks about women, appearing to make fun of Carly Fiorina's face, Trump is tied for first place with female Republican voters.

CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think women all over the country heard clearly what Mr. Trump said.

BASH: As for Fiorina, the only female candidate in the Republican race, her surge after a strong debate showing last month has ended. She dropped 11 points with women alone, registering now at just 4 percent.


BASH: Now, the new CNN/ORC poll does have other good news for Republicans overall. Sixty-eight percent, more than two-thirds of Republican voters are satisfied and excited with their options in the presidential field. And, Jake, that's -- you see, they're 10 points higher that what Democratic voters think about their options for president.

TAPPER: A lot of excitement in the Republican base.

Dana Bash, thanks so much.

BASH: Thank you.

TAPPER: Back with me to talk about the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Republican presidential candidate and former senator, Rick Santorum.

And I know your general strategy is that you weren't so high in the polls last time around --

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Four years ago, yesterday, CBS had me at 1 percent nationally. So, I'm not --

TAPPER: Then you exploded in Iowa just a week or two before.

SANTORUM: It was not -- it was a longtime fuse explosion. We were working through it for a long time. We're doing the same thing.

TAPPER: And you're confident it's going to happen again.

SANTORUM: Of course. I mean, I really feel good that, you know, what happens in these early primary states, they take this very seriously, and they'll date around and they'll eventually decide who they're going to marry. And I feel like we're -- we're the guy who you bring home to mom. TAPPER: You are not -- you are hesitant to criticize your fellow

Republican candidates.


TAPPER: When you hear things along the lines of what Donald Trump said recently about George W. Bush and 9/11, and he didn't keep us safe was the implication, what do you think?

SANTORUM: Well, look, Donald Trump is someone who seems to be sort of feeling his way through on the issue of national security right now. Obviously, answering the question two weeks apart completely differently is not something you would expect out of a presidential candidate.

But Donald Trump is sort of a different kind of presidential candidate and, you know, we'll just have to let those things sort of play themselves out a little bit. Suggesting, I -- you know, when he said that the president bears responsibility, I was in the United States Senate at time. I bear responsibility. I take responsibility for things that happened on our watch, but to imply that somehow -- I don't think he did that, I don't think he did imply the president somehow or another was -- let down on the job, I think he was saying we had to pick it up and we did.

TAPPER: Well, he tweeted a link, Donald Trump tweeted a link to a "New York Times" op-ed piece all about that presidential daily brief, bin Laden determined to attack in the United States.

[16:20:01] An op-ed that was pretty tough on the Bush administration, saying he should have connected the dots, they all should have connected the dots, but they were focused on Saddam Hussein.

SANTORUM: I would just say, everyone at that time understands that things should have been done and differently. It was a new type of attack, it was a new type of war that we clearly were not prepared for. And to address the issue, what we did do is connect the dots and attacked Afghanistan because that's where the threat was coming from.

And to suggest that somehow we shouldn't have done that, that that was a mistake, I think is a mistake. I think we absolutely needed to take care and respond to radical Islam after it attacked us because for 20- plus years, we weren't responding to radical Islam, whether it's USS Cole, whether it's the bombing in Tanzania, or all the way back to the marine barracks in Beirut, we did forcefully respond to radical Islam and we gave the impression that America was a paper target and it was going to be weak.

And so, we needed to do exactly what we did in Afghanistan and take out bin Laden's forces in al Qaeda and the Taliban.

TAPPER: Dr. Ben Carson says, and he stands by it --


TAPPER: -- that he would not have sent U.S. troops to Afghanistan. SANTORUM: I think he's absolutely wrong. I think we would be in

worse shape had we not met force with force. That's an area of the world, he's made comments about the threat of radical Islam, if you do not confront radical Islam with the force that is necessary to convince them that you're serious about confronting them and restraining them and defeating them, all you do is encourage them.

And we see that right now with respect to ISIS. We are not taking ISIS seriously. We're not doing what's necessary to be able to defeat them, and they're gaining strength as a result of that. And this containment strategy, the strategy of not defeating ISIS is allowing them to recruit more and be much more successful and will be a more virulent threat as a result.

TAPPER: Senator Rick Santorum of the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania, thanks so much. Always good to see you, sir. Appreciate it.

SANTORUM: Good to see you, sir.

TAPPER: Also in the politics lead, is Vice President Joe Biden trying to separate himself from Hillary Clinton and taking apparent swipes at her? Could it be a warm-up lap for his presidential run?

And the national lead, they claim it was easy to hack the CIA director's e-mail account, the information possibly compromised in what the self-described hackers are revealing about their true identities. That story coming up.


[16:26:46] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Staying with our politics lead, by the mighty thighs of Odin, if it walks like a presidential candidate and talks like a presidential candidate, it just might be a presidential candidate, especially when we're talking about Vice President Joe Biden who has kept Democrats waiting for months. Now, many in his own party say, God love you, Joe, but you missed your moment.

And yet, Biden is busy saying things that seem directed squarely at the Democratic front-runner.

CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny is here with me.

Jeff, I think a little shadowboxing today. Vice President Biden talking about Hillary Clinton, obviously, it seemed.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: He did. Shadowboxing, Jake, or perhaps a preview of a new game of the Democratic "Family Feud".

Whatever you call it, Joe Biden was eager to remind people today he spent the last seven years just a heartbeat away from President Obama, for a reason, and he made it clear he would run on that if he jumps into the Democratic primary. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)


ZELENY (voice-over): Joe Biden sure seems to be enjoying himself.

BIDEN: Good to see you.

ZELENY: He's not even a candidate yet. But today, he was eager to show he's different from that other Democrat running for president.

First, he doesn't believe Republicans are always the bad guys.

BIDEN: I don't think my chief enemy is the Republican party. They're -- this is a matter of, you know, making things work.

ZELENY: A not so subtle jab at this moment from last week's Democratic debate when Hillary Clinton was asked to name her enemies.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, in addition to the NRA, the health insurance companies, the drug companies, the Iranians, probably the Republicans.


ZELENY: Time is running short. He has nine days to qualify for the ballot in Georgia, followed by deadlines in Alabama and Texas.

Even his new polls show Biden in a distant third, and more Democrats say he shouldn't run, his campaign in waiting roars on.

BIDEN: Barack Obama.

ZELENY: He took pains to show that he's the one who's tight with President Obama.

BIDEN: The only two people who didn't disagree on a single substantive issue were the president and me.

ZELENY: And he's the one who Obama picked as his number two.

BIDEN: He kidded me once and said, look, make up your mind, do you want, before I was decided, whether you want to be secretary of state or vice president?

ZELENY: Old disagreements from the Situation Room suddenly fair game, squabbling over credit and blame, even over killing Osama bin Laden.

BIDEN: Everybody went around the room, and there are two people who were definitive, absolutely certain, Leon Panetta said go, and Bob Gates, has already publicly said this, said, don't go.

ZELENY: One person Biden left out, Secretary of State Clinton, who has long said she advised the president to move ahead with the high stakes raid. CLINTON: I was one who recommended to the president that he go ahead

and his advisers were split because it was a very risky operation.

ZELENY: Biden didn't stop there. He made clear how he viewed the pecking order at the White House.

BIDEN: As we walked out of the room and walked upstairs, I said -- I told him my opinion, that I thought he should go but follow his own instincts.

ZELENY: Whether Biden is revising history, or simply trying to remind voters of his rank, it's clear than ever, he wants to be president.


ZELENY: It is true. He wants to be president. Those are five words you hear again and again when you talk to Democrats who are around Biden.