Return to Transcripts main page


Ben Carson Criticizes Media; University of Missouri President Quits; The ISIS Threat; Carson Deflects Questions About His Past; Sanders to CNN: "Magic" Not Slipping Away; Obama & Netanyahu Meet at White House. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired November 9, 2015 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Did ISIS just become a much larger threat to the United States?

THE LEAD starts right now.

New details about how terrorist chatter helped convince U.S. officials that ISIS blew that plane out of the sky. Could the next one be an American plane?

Revolt on a college campus. After numerous allegations of racism, the football team there refused to play, one student refused to eat. It all forced a huge surprise today.

Plus, a little boy laid to rest today after two police officers fired 18 shots into his father's car. It's a tragedy and a mystery for this community. And new this hour, their boss is telling CNN that the city is corrupt.

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

Our world lead today, 99.9 percent certain, that's how sure a senior U.S. official is that ISIS snuck that bomb onto that Russian passenger jet, taking the plane out and with it 224 people, including 25 children.

But the official line from the Egyptians, confusingly, remains the same. They say that it is still too soon to definitively say just what caused this plane to fall out of the sky.

CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is in Washington and will help us clear this all up.

Jim, why such a disconnect between what U.S. and British and Israeli officials are saying and the public statements of the Russians and especially the Egyptians?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I will tell you, there's so many politics swirling around here, really, the last thing you want in any sort of terrorism or possible terrorism investigation. You now actually have the Russian prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, tweeting -- quote -- "The Russian plane crash in Egypt may have been the result of a terrorist attack, so all flights to Egypt have been suspended since Friday."

That out of line with other Russian officials who refuse to identify a cause so far. Meanwhile, Egyptian officials have been even more reluctant, saying that such an attack or fearing, I imagine, that such an attack could undermine the government's tough counterterror efforts.

U.S. officials, while not reaching a definitive conclusion, indicate they are moving closer to identifying a cause.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight, U.S. intelligence is 99.9 percent certain, a U.S. official tells CNN, that a bomb brought down Metrojet 9268 over the Sinai.

PHILIP HAMMOND, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: We formed the view overall that it was more likely than not that this was a bomb on the plane.

SCIUTTO: The increasingly likely conclusion sparking ominous new warnings of the global threat from ISIS.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: This is a huge worldwide problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If this is a bomb by the affiliate of ISIS in the Sinai, ISIS has now fully eclipsed al Qaeda as the gravest terrorist threat in the world.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We do need to be very wary of flights coming in from the Middle East.

SCIUTTO: Egypt's lead investigator noted a loud noise on the cockpit voice recorder just before the plane broke up in the air. But he still wouldn't concede a bomb as the likely culprit.

AYMAN AL-MUQADDAM, COMMISSION OF INQUIRY HEAD: The initial observation of the aircraft wreckage does not yet allow for identifying the origin of the in-flight breakup.

SCIUTTO: U.S., British and Israeli officials seem more convinced, some crucial intelligence coming from communications intercepted by Israeli intelligence focused on the Sinai and passed along to the U.S. and U.K.

One focus now, the possibility this was an inside job with ISIS recruiting an airport worker in Sharm el-Sheikh to place a bomb on board the plane.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: If they were able to infiltrate Sharm el-Sheikh Airport, they certainly could have had the opportunity to do that in other airports throughout the Middle East. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: I'm told even U.S. intelligence at this stage is still raw and to some degree purely circumstantial.

U.S. officials don't have the hard evidence they normally would at this stage, explosive residue on the debris, for instance, or bodies with shrapnel wounds, possibly indicating an explosion. Until they do so, U.S. officials will also refuse a definitive conclusion, Jake. But as you have heard so many officials here in the U.S. and Israeli and in the U.K., they're at least willing to go so far as that looks like the most likely conclusion at this point.

TAPPER: And 99 percent is pretty close to 100.

Jim Sciutto, thanks.

The British government says that the luggage screening process at Sharm el-Sheikh Airport failed and that could be how ISIS or its affiliate in Sinai potentially delivered a bomb to this plane.

CNN international correspondent Erin McLaughlin is in Sharm el-Sheikh from where this ill-fated flight took off.

Erin, you got a close look at what goes on behind the ticketing counter at the airport. Tell us about it.


We were given a tour of the security points throughout the airport, including the luggage screening process, as well as a room used to monitor cameras throughout the airport. We didn't see anything out of the ordinary, but the Associated Press reports that when the airport is out of the spotlight, there are a number of alarming allegations that have been made by seven unidentified airport officials, allegations including that a machine, a key machine used to monitor luggage for explosives often doesn't work due to human error.


It also reports that there's lax security at one of the entrances to the airport for fuel for the airplane, fuel and food for the airplanes. They also report that some of the poorly paid policemen inside the airport monitoring the X-ray machines are prone to bribes.

So all of this, Egyptian officials really hitting back at the AP report, spokesperson for Egypt's aviation authority releasing the statement saying -- quote -- "I am not saying we are 100 percent mistake-free. It is possible, but not in the way it was portrayed. These allegations are generalizations. They are baseless and false."

Airport authorities insisting that the Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport is safe, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Erin McLaughlin, thank you so much.

CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh is in Washington as well.

Rene, there are hundreds of thousands of airport workers in the United States who have unrestricted access at the thousands of U.S. airports. And some U.S. officials seem worried because they say the government doesn't know really all that much about who these workers are.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Jake, that's absolutely right.

We know one congressman is sounding the alarm tonight over concerns about an insider threat right here in the United States. And he points to a vetting system for airport workers he says is not stringent enough to catch bad actors.


MARSH (voice-over): As U.S. intelligence officials are increasingly confident a terrorist bomb brought down the Russian Metrojet airliner, tonight, U.S. authorities are honing in on security measures at airports across the Middle East.

JEH JOHNSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: ISIL is out there now active in a lot of different areas. And so while this investigation is pending, and because we have this group claiming responsibility, we believe it's significant to do these things on an interim basis.

MARSH: Fewer than 10 airports in the region with direct flights to the U.S. are seeing the increased security, including airports in Cairo, Kuwait and Amman, Jordan. But the list could expand.

JOHNSON: I want people to know that their aviation security officials working on their behalf are continually evaluating threats, potential threats, and that we make adjustments all the time.

MARSH: As the Department of Homeland Security intensifies its focus on overseas airports, Congressman John Katko, chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation Security, says not enough is known about the close to one million airport workers with secure access at airports here in the U.S.

REP. JOHN KATKO (R), NEW YORK: Don't know enough about them. And it's troubling that some, we don't even have the basic biographical data on some of these employees. That needs to change. That needs to get better.

MARSH: In June, a Department of Homeland Security inspector general report revealed TSA's airport worker vetting process had effective methods to match workers to terrorism, but not for some basic criminal history.

One U.S. official with knowledge of U.S. aviation security tells CNN the information that's needed to vet airport workers who have access to the most secure areas of the airport is basically the same level a passenger would have to provide to get security precheck clearance. KATKO: Once they get hired, especially, I think we lose a little

sight of them, because, yes, their name gets screened against a terror watch list, but they don't do any of the current vetting that would be more helpful.


MARSH: Although Congressman Katko offered legislation that would increase random screening of airport workers and increase how many times they are vetted beyond their hire date, it hasn't passed the Senate though, Jake.

And, Jake, another issue that's come up, you know, if this is the problem at U.S. airports where TSA is in charge, some are saying imagine the situation overseas, where TSA can't physically provide oversight.

TAPPER: Rene Marsh, thank you so much.

In our politics lead, one until debate day, Dr. Ben Carson not happy with the continued questions about his life story, saying he's been scrutinized more than any other candidate. Now one of his competitors is asking, is he kidding?

That story next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Time now for our politics lead. In some ways, it seems like you can't talk about one without talking about the other. They are the two Republican front-runners. And they're part and parcel of the outsider phenomenon, though they are far different breeds of cat. They will both occupy two prime-time positions at tomorrow night's debate in Milwaukee.

But Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson spent their weekends, well, just a little differently. While Trump was live from New York and danced like Drake and like doofy dads everywhere on "Saturday Night Live," Dr. Carson spent his weekend answering allegations that he may have sensationalized portions of his autobiography.

Today, again, the outsider twins find themselves together in a new South Carolina poll.

Let's go right to CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash. She's in Waukesha, Wisconsin -- Dana.


Ben Carson and Donald Trump are going to share center stage at yet another debate here in Wisconsin tomorrow night. And there is new evidence this afternoon that, right now, at this snapshot in time, it is Carson and Trump, and then there's everyone else.


[16:15:08] BASH (voice-over): Ben Carson is surging in South Carolina, now running neck and neck with Donald Trump.

BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not particularly getting under my skin.

BASH: Carson is on the rise even as questions persist about his life story defined by tales of personal struggle and redemption, central to his appeal.

CARSON: You're asking me something about fifty years ago. You expect me to have the details on that? Forget about it. It's not going to happen.

BASH: Whether it's the fact CNN could not find anyone who could corroborate his story of stabbing a boy as a young man, a boy only saved by his belt buckle or "The Wall Street Journal" questioning his anecdote about taking a test at Yale designed to paint him ethical, Carson says he's a victim of unfair media bias.

CARSON: I mean, it's just stupid. And if our media is no better investigating than that, it's sick.

BASH: Carson declines to identify individuals involved in his violent outburst, but today, he did point to a 1997 story featuring his mother Sonia who told parade magazine about the attempted stabbing and said, "Oh, that really happened."

Carson's top adviser sounds a different note from the candidate, telling CNN the questions are fair game.

ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, BEN CARSON'S BUSINESS MANAGER: I think it's a very good thing that Dr. Carson is being vetted, that Dr. Carson is being tested.


BASH: And other candidates listening to Carson complain say, welcome to the big leagues.

CHRISTIE: I don't have a whole lot of sympathy. He should answer the questions forthrightly and directly.

BASH: Marco Rubio is also facing scrutiny for his past, using a Florida Republican Party credit card for personal expenses. But his campaign is confronting it with a different tactic, releasing the statements this weekend insisting there's no there-there.

Donald Trump, a fellow outsider virtually tied with Carson in key early states, has the most to gain by the controversy and stoked it on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION".

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via telephone): Ben wrote a book, and the book is a tough book because, you know, he talked about he has pathological disease. It's a serious statement when you say you have pathological disease because as I understand it, you can't really cure it. But he said he had pathological disease.

BASH: Carson did call his temper as a child pathological, but not a disease. And Carson isn't the only first-time politician prone to embellishing in the past.

Here's what Donald Trump told us this summer.

TRUMP: Everybody exaggerates. I mean, I guess I do a little bit. I want to say good things.


BASH: Now, one politician who thought he was going to get far as an outsider ended up dropping out at the end of September. And, Jake, I'm talking about the governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker. He has not made any campaign appearances since that time except he's going to change that in just a few minutes. He's going to be side by side with Jeb Bush talking about education. But I'm told by sources close to both men don't expect an endorsement, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, the Walker endorsement, a lot of people wanted that.

Dana Bash, thanks so much.

On the Democratic side today, Hillary Clinton making sure all the I's are dotted and T's are crossed, filing her paperwork this afternoon to get on the New Hampshire primary ballot. A Granite State victory is looking more and more in reach for Clinton, and that's because this guy, Senator Bernie Sanders from neighboring Vermont, has slipped a bit in the polls in the Granite State. While he has become a cultural phenomenon, in some ways, his campaign seems to have stalled.

Our CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger sat down with Sanders and asked him if his moment in the spotlight is nearing its end.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Is the magic you had this summer slipping away from you?

BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. Absolutely not. Let's go back six months. And let's look at Bernie Sanders announcing his candidacy and being three, four percent in the polls.

No money in his campaign. No volunteers. No political organization, running against a woman who is enormously well-known, whose husband was president of the United States.

BORGER: That would be Hillary Clinton?

SANDERS: Yes -- I don't want to say so. If you say it, I'll agree.


SANDERS: Look, we started off six months ago, be honest, Gloria --

BORGER: Right.

SANDERS: What did the media consider Bernie Sanders, a fringe candidate, right? Not a serious candidate. Be honest. That was the case.

Now, you are saying, you haven't fight won this thing yet. That tells me we've made real progress in six months.

BORGER: I want to talk about Hillary Clinton's damn e-mails, to quote you.


SANDERS: The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails.



BORGER: You sort of gave her a pass during the debate. Do you regret that?

SANDERS: No, I do not regret that at all. I mean, I cannot walk down the in Capitol Hill without being begged by the media to attack Hillary Clinton. They want to make this personal. It's easy to cover. I choose not to do that.

Let's talk about the economy. Let's talk about Wall Street. Let's talk about climate change. Let's talk about education. Frankly, that is what the American people want to hear discussed.


[16:20:04] TAPPER: Don't go anywhere, you'll miss more of Gloria's interview with Democratic presidential Bernie Sanders at the top of the hour 5:00 p.m. Eastern in "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer.

Coming up on our show, President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu meeting face-to-face for the first time in a year. Are there new signs their strained relationship may be on the mend?

Plus, a 6-year-old boy with autism shot dead by police. It was all caught on body cam video. Why did the officers shoot? A new court proceeding today. That story's ahead.


[16:25:01] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In other world news, an effort today to portray collegiality as President Obama sat down with one of his least favorite allies, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom Obama has enjoyed a famously frosty relationship. The two leaders met face-to-face at the White House for the first time in more than a year. This comes, of course, after the passing of that controversial nuclear deal with Iran which Netanyahu strongly opposed.

And amid continued violence between Israelis and Palestinians with no peaceful resolution in sight, Israeli officials releasing today graphic video showing a knife wielding Palestinian woman stabbing a security guard in the West Bank before she was shot.

Let's get right to CNN's Michelle Kosinski. She's live at the White House.

Michelle, obviously, no love lost between these two leaders. What was the mood like when they spoke with reporters?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. I mean, that's why everybody wants to see what this was like, I mean, considering that in 2011 when Benjamin Netanyahu was in that Oval Office lecturing President Obama very uncomfortably on history and the relationship between these two countries. And then coming here just a few months ago not even meeting with President Obama but railing against the Iran nuclear deal before Congress.

So this is the first time that they're meeting face-to-face in more than a year. And it could not have been more different than those prior times. I mean, we saw this exuberant handshake multiple times. Netanyahu offering an effusive thank you to the U.S. for its generosity and supporting Israel's security.

And President Obama also offered this strong statement, again in support of Israel. Listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to be very clear that we condemn in the strongest terms Palestinian violence against innocent Israeli citizens. And I want to repeat once again it is my strong belief that Israel has not just the right but the obligation to protect itself.


KOSINSKI: Interesting no mention there of it being both sides' responsibilities to contribute to peace, no mention of continued Israeli settlement activity which the U.S. believes contributes to tensions. That meeting was to be all about building the relationship, moving beyond the Iran nuclear deal and trying to build security and just continue the relationship since those tensions.

It's also really interesting though to hear the prime minister say that he's committed to a two-state solution. Well, that's quite a bit different from some statements he made while he was running again for office. But, you know, outside of that meeting the White House says it trusts in the relationship. But there needs to be follow through to statements like that. It

wants to hope for the best. Looking for some ideas or concrete steps toward building trust and building peace there if there's not going to be a two-state solution any time soon, Jake.

TAPPER: Michelle Kosinski at the White House -- thanks so much.

In our national lead, football players leading a revolt against their university for its handling or lack of handling racial issues. Today, a key resignation may have the team back on the field. That story next.