Return to Transcripts main page


Sanders Campaign Threatens To Sue Democratic National Committee; How ISIS Uses Corruption To Fuel Its Cash Flow; FBI, U.S. Marshals Searching For "Affluenza" Teen. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired December 18, 2015 - 16:30   ET



[16:30:00] SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rubio hitting right back.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's going to have a hard time because he's not told the truth about his position in the past on legalization.

SERFATY: The Cruz-Rubio duel taking center stage in the GOP presidential race even as another showdown picks up steam.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You're not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency --

SERFATY: Jeb Bush stepping up his attacks on frontrunner Donald Trump.

BUSH: He would bring chaos to the presidency just as he's done to this campaign.

SERFATY: Trump today welcoming praise from Vladimir Putin who called the billionaire bright and talented.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via telephone): At least he's a leader. You know, unlike what we have in this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Again, he kills journalists that don't agree with him.

TRUMP: Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also --

SERFATY: Bush slamming Trump's decision to embrace the Russian president in an interview on CNN.

BUSH: To get praise from Vladimir Putin is not going to help Donald Trump. He's not a serious candidate.


SERFATY: And Donald Trump hitting right back on Twitter tweeting moments ago that he thinks Jeb Bush is, quote, "dumb as rocks." But for the frontrunner though for the most part this week he's largely been able to stay above the fray while Cruz and Rubio focus on each other and not on him -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Sunlen Serfaty, thanks so much.

A Democratic presidential candidate may have just picked a fight with the DNC or counterpunched. He's now even threatening to sue all this after the party suspended the Bernie Sanders campaign from a critical database used to id potential voters.

Now, one of the Sanders' campaign top aides is pushing back and he'll join me next on THE LEAD.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Staying with our Politics Lead right now, the Sanders campaign says it's being held hostage by the Democratic National Committee and if things do not change Mr. Sanders will sue.

Sanders right now is virtually locked out from all the information that they say they need to reach voters. And with the Iowa caucuses so close, that could really hurt. So what did the sanders campaign do to merit such a drastic punishment?

Well, the DNC says multiple sanders staffers snooped and stole voter data belonging to the Clinton campaign. CNN senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny is here with me in Washington.

Jeff, what is the DNC exactly saying and what is the Sanders campaign's response?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the DNC and Sanders are not backing down from this really extraordinary dispute, but if you're wondering why the campaigns would even be able to access the same kinds of records, it's because all Democratic campaigns keep their records in the same database, a large electronic voter file, kind of like a phone book.

But on Wednesday that fire wall went down for maintenance for about 40 minutes and four staffers from the Sanders campaign started running searches, I'm told they were looking for things like lists of people who were inclined to support Clinton and people who were not.

Both are very important because they could target some and scratch others from the list. That's why the DNC is temporarily suspending access to this file and the Sanders campaign says they'll take this to court.


ZELENY (voice-over): The Democratic presidential race has been a relatively civil affair. Now it looks more like a civil war.

JEFF WEAVER, BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: The leadership of the Democratic National Committee is now attempting to undermine our campaign.

ZELENY: Bernie Sanders campaign admits tapping into top secret voter information from Hillary Clinton. They blamed it on a software glitch and now firing back at the decision to block Sanders from using a critical database of voters.

WEAVER: They are not going to sabotage our campaign. One of the strongest grassroots campaigns in modern history.

ZELENY: The Sanders campaign fired one aide for viewing Clinton's proprietary information through a firewall that was apparently wide open. But campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, says the punishment, even temporary, is out of bounds.

WEAVER: And if the DNC continues to hold our data hostage, and continues to try to attack the heart and soul of our grassroots campaign, we will be in federal court this afternoon seeking immediate relief.

ZELENY: Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman- Schultz told Wolf Blitzer the Sanders campaign would be blocked from the party file until an investigation is complete.

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ, CHAIRWOMAN, Democratic National Committee: The Sanders campaign unfortunately doesn't have anything other than bluster at the moment that they can put out there.

ZELENY: The breach of data inside the Democratic National headquarters brought to mind a modern day Watergate. But the fingerprints are all electronic and in this case it seems the door was left wide open.

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: That is just like if you walked into someone's home when the door was unlocked and took things that don't belong to you in order to be able to use them for your own benefit.

ZELENY: The national data director for Sanders was fired. He told CNN, we didn't try to be sneaky. They can argue that we shouldn't have done it, but we did not in any way try to deceive them.

Liberal groups accuse Democratic officials of playing favorites with Clinton. DNC leaders should immediately reverse this disturbing decision.

While Clinton has the upper hand, the Democratic race is far from settled, particularly in New Hampshire. Sanders is leading Clinton 50-40, but this could be a new challenge for Sanders who's consistently seen as more honest and trustworthy than Clinton. Sixty percent say Clinton is not while 59 percent say Sanders is.


ZELENY: Now, this feud could spill out on to the debate stage when Clinton, Sanders and Martin O'Malley are set to meet tomorrow night in New Hampshire for the final Democratic debate of the year. One Sanders aide says the campaign is paralyzed without having access to this voter file. The DNC says this is temporary, but the clock is ticking. The Iowa caucuses only 45 days away.

TAPPER: Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much. Let's bring in Tad Devine. He is an adviser to the Sanders presidential campaign. He joins me live from Burlington. Tad, first of all, has your campaign filed suit yet? My understanding is court closed 9 minutes ago.

TAD DEVINE, SENIOR ADVISER, SANDERS FOR PRESIDENT: Well, Jake, I'm in Vermont. It's my understanding that they were preparing to file suit. I wouldn't be surprised if it's been filed. I just haven't been notified of it yet.

TAPPER: So let's just get to what happened. Your campaign has fired a staffer for downloading this information. Why is it the position of the Sanders campaign that you're painting yourselves as the victim when you've already in a way acknowledged wrongdoing?

DEVINE: Sure. Well, Jake, it's true, a staffer was fired for doing something wrong. But the remedy imposed here by the Democratic National Committee is extreme. You know, they're trying to shut down the biggest grassroots campaign I think that certainly we've seen this year in American politics.

[05:30:01]We need this information. This is our information. We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars. We gave that to the Democratic National Committee in order to acquire this information. And now arbitrarily, capriciously they've shut it down.

It's just the remedy that they're imposing on us really is a huge overreach and that's why we're going to court.

TAPPER: The DNC says it was multiple staffers from your campaign, not just one who breached the faulty firewall. Are they wrong? Was it only one?

DEVINE: No, apparently there were four people who looked at it, but there was one, Josh, who was in charge of it and he was fired immediately. Listen, Jake -- we knew about this --

TAPPER: But the other three breached it and they're still working for you?

DEVINE: No -- first of all, let's get the facts straight. We didn't breach anything. A firewall, which is supposed to be imposed came down, they made the mistake, you know, Van and also the DNC, not us, they exposed information from other campaigns.

By the way, the information from our campaign could have easily and probably was exposed as well. So, listen, the other people in the campaign, you know, they'll be dealt with and Jeff is looking into that.

But what's important here is when we found out about this nearly two months ago when Haystack who does our modeling found out that this information was coming into our possession, we immediately notified the Democratic National Committee of it.

And we didn't do what somebody did yesterday or the day before try to make a big public story about this, we let them know it had happened. We acted in good faith. We were very responsible about it.

And they assured us in the aftermath of that that these firewalls which protect our data, the data we paid for, were being imposed again. But apparently they didn't get the job done.

They've really made a big mistake here. They've exposed our data and the data of the Clinton campaign as well. They need to clean it up.

TAPPER: To use Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, to use her metaphor, obviously the doors locks were broken, but that doesn't mean the staffers had the right to walk into the house and take stuff.

DEVINE: And that's why the staffer, the director, was fired, Jake. I'll tell you something else, we told them months ago that they're locks are broken. We've been trying to work this out with them. We've been trying to tell them this stuff.

But unfortunately they have acted irresponsibly first of all by having these firewalls that should be there not there to protect our data. And secondly, by overreacting grossly overreacting, they're shutting down our campaign.

And we're not going to let them do it. If anybody thinks Bernie Sanders is going to let the establishment, the political establishment or anybody else do something like this to him. Let me tell you something, they do not know Bernie Sanders.

TAPPER: Well, I respect the attempt at jujitsu here and turn this into something where you guys are the victims, but it was your campaign that actually peeked into the information from what Jeff Zeleny has been reporting the staffer was not just like looking to see what could be happening to you guys, but actually trying to get information.

Trying to find out what the Clinton campaign's turnout projections were, how many people over 60 and under 30, the Clinton campaign had identified, I mean, this is information, do you have that information that was unethically obtained?

DEVINE: No, we do not and we've made that clear publicly. Jeff said in his press conference a few hours ago. Listen, you know, he made a mistake and he was fired. And then the Democratic National Committee made a much bigger mistake, they compounded it. They made it much worse.

Listen, Jake, for months we've known what's been going on with the Democratic National Committee. We're having a debate on the Saturday night before Christmas. I don't think that was chosen to have the maximum viewership, OK.

I mean, listen. We've tried to cooperate, but if they're going to do this to us, we're going to stand up publicly and we're going to tell the people what's going on. Now, they need to stop it. We just want to talk to voters.

I can understand being concerned that Bernie Sanders is doing so well in New Hampshire, so well in Iowa that we received the endorsement yesterday from one of the biggest international unions, The Communication Workers of America, a huge progressive organization endorsed us.

We've got over 2 million contributions to our campaign. All that happened yesterday.

TAPPER: Right.

DEVINE: And I can understand people being concerned about his progress. But, you know, to do this to us now so close to the Iowa caucuses is wrong. OK. They just need to recognize that. Let us have access to the data. We'll figure out who did what. We'll be very transparent about it. If they want a court discovery process to figure out what happened, we welcome it.

TAPPER: Tad, is there any chance that Senator Sanders would run as an independent for president given the feelings you have about how you've been treated by the DNC?

DEVINE: No, no, he will not and he will not do that because he's not going to try to help a Republican become the next president of the United States. That's why Bernie decided to run within the Democratic process. He's acted in extraordinary good faith and the Democratic National Committee should do the same for him.

TAPPER: All right. Tad Devine, we appreciate you coming and taking the questions. Thanks so much.

DEVINE: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: And if you missed CNN's Republican debate Tuesday night, you will get another chance to watch it tonight, that's at 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

[16:45:01]The World Lead now, zeroing in on the ISIS cash flow and the new coordinated effort to cut off the terror group's criminal connections and dirty money.

Plus, the National Lead, how the hunt is now intensifying for the so- called "affluenza teen," this rich kid now fugitive on probation for killing four people in a drunk driving crash.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The World Lead as President Obama lays out the role of the U.S. to try to destroy ISIS, there's a new multinational effort to choke off the terrorist group's steady stream of money.

According to a CNN investigation, ISIS bankrolled some $2 billion last year all through corrupt activities. Now resolution just adopted by the United Nations would attempt to nip at that cash flow. It would freeze bank assets and ban travel of anyone linked to ISIS members. It would pressure Syria to stop letting ISIS smuggle oil across its borders.

Let's bring in CNN's Tom Foreman. Tom, you looked exactly how ISIS gets its cash.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This looks like a great plan on paper, the question is can they make it apply in life because ISIS is getting a lot of money from a lot of places.


FOREMAN (voice-over): Theft, extortion, kidnapping and black market trade through a wide range of illegal sources, money seems to keep rolling into ISIS.

[16:50:00]Cold cash for weapons, payroll, transportation and more, Michael Weiss is a CNN contributor who's heavily researched the subject.

MICHAEL WEISS, AUTHOR, "ISIS INSIDE THE ARMY OF TERROR": They have the resources of probably a small nation's GDP and that's not an accident.

FOREMAN: Weiss says first there is routine crime, often in the form of illegal fees, taxes, and fines on people in their territory.

WEISS: Everyone will be caught jaywalking or running a business after hours or not having gone to the mosque or smoking or drinking, that is boontime for ISIS. That's how they're making a fortune.

FOREMAN: Second, kidnapping. The United States and Britain among the nations who say they refuse to pay ransom, but others including individuals do pay.

DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The many tens of millions of dollars that ISIL have raised from ransom payments is going into promoting terrorism including terrorism effecting our own country.

FOREMAN: Third, oil. Analysts believe the group is selling many barrels on the black market. By one estimate a half million dollars' worth a day.

WEISS: They're selling it to Turkish businessmen, selling it to Kurdish smugglers who smuggle it back into Iraqi Kurdistan, to keep the lights on Damascus, to keep Assad's war machine, his tanks, his APCs, helicopters and jets, you know, operable. He needs oil. He needs petrol.

FOREMAN: And fourth, antiquities. ISIS has destroyed great historic treasures, but has also taken an untold number of pieces. International Council of Museums has posted a red list of looted or at-risk items, sculptures, scrolls, mosaics, pottery, asking art experts worldwide to watch for them.


FOREMAN: And of course, there are foreign donors to ISIS too, but stopping all of this, you want to measure it? Think about it this way, earlier this fall the U.S. government offered a $5 million reward to anyone who could provide information to help stop all of this, the smuggling, the theft, black market trade, but so far that reward remains unclaimed while ISIS keeps raking in the cash -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Tom Foreman, thanks so much for that report.

Next in the National Lead, the beer pong video that may have just set off an international manhunt for a teen fugitive. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The FBI and U.S. marshals are now hunting for Ethan Couch. They're now offering $5,000 for information on him because they have positively zero idea where he is.

Now, you might remember Ethan Couch, he's the teenager who killed four people while driving drunk only for a Texas juvenile court to let him off with probation.

Couch's lawyers had convinced a judge that the defendant had a disease called affluenza, that is his wealth and his privilege so warped his mind that he did not quite understand the consequences of running over other humans while gunning his pickup truck to 70 miles per hour, an interesting affliction.

But now after violating his probation and risking going to jail, Couch and his mom have vanished. CNN's Nick Valencia tracking this for CNN. Nick, seems no one has any clue where this kid is?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if they have any leads, Jake, they're being very hush about it. We just heard from the U.S. Marshals who are now offering up to $5,000 for any information leading to the arrest or capture of this 18-year-old. But for now Ethan Couch and his mother presumably are on the run.


VALENCIA (voice-over): It's this video that eventually led to the manhunt posted on social media this month. The clip seems to show a group of college-aged kids partying while playing beer pong. Among them appears to be Texas teen, Ethan Couch.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: We need some ambulances. It's sad. We slipped and -- God.

VALENCIA: Two years ago Couch, then just 16 years old, was sentenced to ten years' probation after killing four people while drunk driving.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And two of those were my wife and daughter.

VALENCIA: His blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit. As part of a deal, Couch agreed to stay away from alcohol or end up going to jail.

In a bizarre defense Couch's attorney convinced the judge that couch was a victim of affluenza, the product of wealth and privilege with parents who never taught him the difference between right and wrong.

Listen to what Couch's mother said during a deposition from one of the victim's civil suits against her son.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When is the last time you recall disciplining Ethan for anything?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't remember.

VALENCIA: Now, the teen and his mother have gone missing. Couch apparently fled shortly after this video was made public apparently to avoid violating the probation deal. According to Reuters, the teen's father told law enforcement the passports of both Couch and his mother are also gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so.

VALENCIA: County Sheriff Dee Anderson tried to lock up Couch two years ago.

SHERIFF DEE ANDERSON, TARRANT COUNTY, TEXAS: I think this was planned and I believe that they planned to get away and I believe that they're going to run far and try to hide.


VALENCIA: Authorities believe that Couch and his mother may have left the country -- Jake.

TAPPER: Nick Valencia, thank you.

Here's another guy who isn't winning too many fans these days. The entrepreneur criticized for jacking up the price of a life-saving drug, he's now stepping down from his biotech firm.

The news comes just one day after Martin Shkreli was indicted and arrested on securities fraud charges. The fed say he cheated investors out of upwards of $11 million. Earlier this summer, Shkreli's company hiked the price of an aids and cancer drug nearly 5500-percent to $750 a pill.

Before that Shkreli bought the only copy of a Wu Tang rap album saying he wanted to keep it from the public despite that album's $2 million price tag.

This Sunday on "STATE OF THE UNION," Republican presidential candidate, Rand Paul will join me and we'll also talk to the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. That's Sunday morning at 9:00 and noon Eastern.

That's it for THE LEAD. I am Jake Tapper. You can follow me on Twitter @theleadcnn. Turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Have a great weekend.