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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie; ISIS Conflict; Aviation Security; Trump Lashes Out; Trump Uses Vulgar Term to Bash Clinton; Visa Application Sheds Light on Terrorist Couple; Secret Service Agent's Gun, Badge, USB Stolen. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired December 22, 2015 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:13]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Now, I admit I have never before heard that particular word used by a presidential candidate, but, then again, I never covered Lyndon Johnson.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Hillary Clinton takes a bathroom break, and Donald Trump resorts to bathroom humor and grabs a vulgar word from Yiddish for the male -- the Democratic front-runner. The crazy question now, how much will this actually help Trump's poll numbers?

ISIS terrorists preventing civilians from leaving a key Iraqi city, even worse, using them as human shields, desperate attempts to flee, the fierce assault to drive ISIS out.

Plus, with terror fears sky high and the holiday season in full swing, how did a guy manage to sneak on to the tarmac undetected at a New York City airport?

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

Our politics lead, negative campaigning, it's American as apple pie. It dates back to at least 1800, when Thomas Jefferson allies called John Adams a -- quote -- "hideous hermaphroditic character."

But that said, we have really never quite seen a campaign like this one, nor a candidate such as one Mr. Donald J. Trump. In Michigan, playing to a packed house, Trump, as is his wont, broke into an attack on Hillary Clinton. But instead of sticking to questioning her truthfulness or her policies or her record, the Republican front- runner invoked the bathroom break that Clinton took during Saturday night's Democratic debate.

He called it disgusting. And then Trump went even further, talking about her loss in the Democratic primaries in 2008, saying Clinton -- quote -- "was favored and win and she got schlonged."

CNN's chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, is here with me in Washington.

Dana, at this point, one can only expect this will, for whatever reason, help him and have him rise more in the polls.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, I think that's entirely possible, if not probable, especially since this time Trump is insulting Hillary Clinton and not his fellow Republicans.

But even by Trump standards, his pre-Christmas rally was filled with more lumps of coal than usual.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hillary, that's not a president.

BASH (voice-over): There's down and dirty campaigning, and then there's this, Donald Trump using a Yiddish word for a certain part of the male anatomy to slam Hillary Clinton for losing to Barack Obama in 2008.

TRUMP: She got schlonged. She lost. I mean, she lost. But I watched her the other night. It was hard. It was really hard, because there were a lot of other things on better, including reading books and reading financial papers, which I actually enjoy reading.

BASH: And that's not all. That moment in this weekend's debate when Clinton was late returning from the commercial break.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sorry.

BASH: Apparently because nature was calling, that clearly grossed Trump out.

TRUMP: I know where she went. It's disgusting. I don't want to talk about it.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: No, it's too disgusting. Don't say it. It's disgusting. Let's not go. We want to be very, very straight up. OK?

But I thought was -- wasn't that a weird deal? We're ready to start. They were looking. They gave her every benefit of the doubt, because it's ABC and she practically owns ABC. She really does.

BASH: To add to the bizarre nature of all that, Hillary Clinton's campaign responded with a response prefaced by insisting they would not respond, a spokeswoman saying, "We are not responding to Trump, but everyone who understand the humiliation this degrading language inflicts on all women should #Imwithher."

And Hillary Clinton herself took this not-so-subtle dig at Trump when a little girl asked about being bullied.

CLINTON: You are looking at somebody who has had a lot of terrible things said about me, and I'm well aware of the fact that it's really easy to do that, and, you know, just you say it, and you send it around the world. And, luckily, I'm old enough that it doesn't particularly bother me.

BASH: Team Clinton also continues to say hell no Trump's call for an apology for making a claim about Trump and ISIS that independent fact- checkers call false.

CLINTON: They are going to people, showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.

TRUMP: She's terrible. Donald Trump is on video and ISIS is using him on the video to recruit. And it turned out to be a lie. She's a liar. No, it turned out to be a lie. Turned out to be a lie. And the last person that she wants to run against is me, believe me.

[16:05:02]

BASH: Sparring with Hillary Clinton, a common GOP enemy, is a way for Trump to try to solidify his front-runner status among Republican primary voters, even as one of his rivals is now nipping at his heels.

A new national poll from Quinnipiac has Ted Cruz now just four points behind Trump, a big jump for Cruz to 24 percent. He was at just 16 percent in the same poll earlier this month.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump said a couple of days ago that he thinks this race will come down to him and me. I think Donald may well be right.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Cruz says he thinks the GOP race could end up two-man race between him and Trump, which he said is a good thing for the country.

And, Jake, just moments ago, Jeb Bush also campaigning in New Hampshire today said that he believes that by Trump doing this, about Hillary Clinton, that it is going to enhance her -- quote -- "victimology status" and that he's not going to be president by turning people off. He also went on to say, for crying out loud, we're two days before Christmas, lighten up, man.

TAPPER: All right. Dana Bash, thanks so much.

Staying with our politics lead, my next guest has gone from being an afterthought to showing some real signs of strength in New Hampshire with a little more over than a month until that state's primary.

How can he seal the deal with voters?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: And joining me now, standing in his Tell It Like It Is bus, which is parked in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, New Jersey Governor Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie.

Governor Christie, thanks for joining us.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you for having me, Jake. Appreciate it.

TAPPER: So, your single-minded focus on New Hampshire appears to be paying off. You're third in the CNN poll in the Granite State, behind Trump and Rubio.

Do you think it's fair to say that you need to finish in third place or better in New Hampshire for your campaign to credibly continue?

CHRISTIE: Let's talk on January 15, Jake. Let's see. You know, I think starting around the 15th you can really get a handle on these polls starting to solidify and people in New Hampshire making up their minds. Have me back on January 15, and I will give you an affirmative answer one way or the other.

TAPPER: I'm pencilling you in right now.

Let's talk about some of your rivals. I'm a bit confused by some of your criticisms of Senator Marco Rubio. You have gone after him for missing key Senate votes. You have also gone after him for not campaigning in New Hampshire.

Where do you think Rubio should be? And where is he?

CHRISTIE: Well, I don't know where he is. He's apparently not in Washington. And I know he's not New Hampshire either.

My point on the Senate vote was, don't come out and say that you are opposed to the spending bill that Congress is going to pass, and you're a member of the United States Senate and then not show up to work to vote no. People think that is strange, Jake, that you have an opportunity to vote no on something you say you're opposed to and you don't show up and vote.

That was my point on that. It's not a series of votes. It's that particular vote, where he's said he's opposed to the spending bill. Well, then go down there, make a speech on the floor of the Senate, try to persuade people, and, if you can't, at least vote no yourself.

TAPPER: And you have said that you can do your job from the road as governor?

CHRISTIE: I do my job from the road every day.

And, by the way, when I need to be home, I go home. I will be home tonight. I will be in the statehouse tomorrow doing my job in Trenton, New Jersey. And I do my job from the road. And you can be guaranteed this. If I said that there was a bill that came to my desk that I was opposed to, I wouldn't miss the opportunity to veto it by not showing up in New Jersey and executing on the veto. That's the difference.

TAPPER: You were critical of Senator Ted Cruz for saying that the U.S. should carpet-bomb ISIS in Iraq and Syria. What's your issue with that?

CHRISTIE: My issue with it is, that's tough talking, but when he had the opportunity to protect the homeland by preserving the NSA metadata program, he voted the other way.

So, don't be talking tough on one end, but then not give the intelligence community and our law enforcement community the tools they need to protect the homeland. And I think those things are just contradictory.

TAPPER: I want to play for you a question that you got in New Hampshire yesterday. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we talk about you, and this is no disrespect, one of the biggest things I hear all the time is shady. How do you convince me -- and, right now, my vote is wide open. I love everything you're talking about tonight -- but how do you convince me that you're not shady and you're actually here to help us?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Do you think that that is what's keeping you from being in first place, this perception among some voters that you're shady, that the Bridgegate scandal really is indicative of a bigger problem with you?

CHRISTIE: No.

In fact, if you showed the rest of that tape, I then asked him, what made him think that? And he said, I don't know. I mean, so, no, I don't think it's anything in particular. I think what we concluded, he and I had a conversation back and forth about it, was, he said, well, it's probably because you're from New Jersey.

You know, so, listen, there are just certain cultural things that get baked in, in some people's minds after, you know, "Jersey Shore" and "The Sopranos" that make people think certain ways. But I wanted to know what he wanted. If you played the rest of it, we went back and forth, and I questioned about, like, so makes you feel that way?

[16:10:07]

And, eventually, what they concluded was, it's just because I'm from New Jersey. So, I said to him, well, heck, man, there's nothing I can do about that. I was born there and raised there, proud to be there from. That was really all that was, Jake.

TAPPER: As you know, I'm from Philadelphia. I'm going to hold my tongue when it comes to New Jersey. The Clinton campaign...

CHRISTIE: Be very careful, Jake, very careful, Jake.

TAPPER: The Clinton campaign doubling down on Hillary Clinton's claim that ISIS is using video of Donald Trump to recruit new members.

We have found no evidence that ISIS is doing that. The Hillary Clinton campaign says, Trump's rhetoric about Muslims hurts us in the fight against ISIS. Do you think that point is true? CHRISTIE: What I think, Jake, is the two of them should stop

bickering about their personal disagreements with each other and who should apologize to who and we should get back to talking about the things that Americans really care about, protecting the security of the homeland, making sure that our intelligence and our law enforcement communities have all the tools they need to be able to protect us, coming up with a strategy to beat ISIS where they live and where they're breeding, and making sure that our economy begins to recover, so that we don't have stagnant middle-class wages for the next 15 years.

Those are things we should be talking about. I'm so tired of hearing about the bickering between Donald Trump and Hillary or Donald Trump and Jeb. They should all grow up and start talking about the issues that people really care about, not the issues that concern them personally.

TAPPER: OK. And that's fair enough when it comes to the bickering. But this issue about whether or not Donald Trump's rhetoric actually hurts the United States in the war against radical Islam, that's a legitimate issue to discuss.

CHRISTIE: Well, listen, you know what? I don't think it hurts it anymore than Hillary Clinton saying we're right where we need to be with ISIS.

I mean, both of them have said some things that I don't agree with. She's also said that Assad was a reformer. So, you know, we can go back and parse all of their statements back and forth and say whether it helps us or hurts us.

What will really help is we get a commander in chief behind the desk in the Oval Office who understands how to fight terrorism because he's done it. I'm the only one in this race who has done that. If the people give me the chance to be president, they will see an effective terrorism fighter as president of the United States.

TAPPER: You have said that Republicans need to focus on drawing a strong contrast with Hillary Clinton. Last night, Donald Trump did something like that. He said that what Clinton did during a debate bathroom break was -- quote -- "too disgusting to talk about." And then he said she got -- quote -- "schlonged" by President Barack Obama in 2008.

Thoughts?

CHRISTIE: None. None. I'm not going to respond to everything that comes out of Donald's mouth.

TAPPER: Is it appropriate for a presidential candidate to use the word schlonged in that way?

CHRISTIE: I am not going to respond to everything that comes out of Donald Trump's mouth.

It may fascinate all of you. It is of absolutely no interest to me. I'm running for president of the United States, Jake.

TAPPER: OK. I will say, when you say you have no thoughts on that, I don't believe you. But I will move on.

CHRISTIE: No, I said -- no, Jake, I didn't I had no thoughts. I said I had no interest. That's different. Plenty of thoughts. No interest in discussing it.

TAPPER: All right, fair enough.

This weekend, you said you have been going after Senators Cruz and Rubio the most because those two -- quote -- "have made the biggest mistakes at the moment." But that's hard to square with comments made by Trump. Jeb Bush says he's the only one tough enough to stand up to Donald Trump.

CHRISTIE: I have heard Jeb say that.

It's fascinating to me. I don't think the complaint about me has ever been that I'm not tough enough. So, you know, if Jeb somehow thinks he tougher than I am, that is certainly -- he's absolutely entitled to his opinion, but I think over the course of time -- there are two things people have never said about me, that I'm not tough enough and that I'm misunderstood. And so I will continue to be who I am, and we will let the voters decide.

TAPPER: Governor Chris Christie, thank you so much. Merry Christmas to you and your beautiful family. Thanks for joining us today.

CHRISTIE: Jake, thanks. Happy holidays to your and your family and a great new year. I look forward to talking to you again real soon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Donald Trump says he won't kill journalists if he wins the White House. I was worried there for a second. But while the Republican base eats up Trump's talk on the media and more, did Trump's vulgar takedown of Hillary Clinton finally go too far? Our panel is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:17:16] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Donald Trump last night perhaps redefining what going beyond the pale is, by saying this about the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She was going to beat Obama. I don't know who would be worse. I don't know. How does it get worse? But she was going to beat, she was favored to win, and she got schlonged, she lost. I mean, she lost.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: I want to talk about Trump and 2016 race with former press secretary for President Obama's reelection campaign, Ben LaBolt, and CNN political commentator, S.E. Cupp.

S.E., Trump says that she got schlonged. Thoughts?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, my parents were so proud, but I'm talking today about getting schlonged and scatological humor, really classy stuff.

Look, what's so frustrating for conservatives like me, who actually want to win the White House, is that today, Hillary Clinton was named the worst ethics violator of 2015 by a government watchdog agency. She's got a long list of failed policies from the Russian reset to the Libyan collapse. The word most people use to describe her is liar. And yet, yet, every time Donald Trump opens his mouth, he gets her that much closer to the White House.

So, I know people love the entertainment factor of a guy who literally has no filter, but when it comes time for the nominating process and time for a general election, Trump is ensuring a Democratic victory. So, you're welcome.

TAPPER: The other that the media, what we talked about quite a bit yesterday and Sunday was the fact that Hillary Clinton said this thing about Donald Trump and ISIS, about ISIS using videos of Donald Trump as a way of recruiting. There's no evidence for it at all. She said this. And yet, Donald Trump knocks that off the front pages --

CUPP: Throws her out.

TAPPER: Yes, and makes this comment.

BEN LABOLT, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY OBAMA 2012 CAMPAIGN: Look, I think Secretary Clinton's comment was defensible. I think that it was a campaign provided --

TAPPER: It was false.

LABOLT: A bunch of social media activity --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: It was false. Perhaps there's some truthiness there somewhere, yes, but the claim is not true.

LABOLT: But ultimately, I mean, the -- you know, Donald Trump is making the war on terror look like a war on Muslims. And that is a terrorism recruitment tool.

But Trump's comments yesterday -- look, he's somebody who knows how to create reality television moments, that's how he's treating the entire campaign. And the Clinton campaign didn't give him what he wanted today I don't know if he was looking for an outreach back and forth like he had with Rosie O'Donnell a few years ago. But they're not playing into his hands on that. An every day he says something like this, he's driving up the gender gap that the Republican Party is going to face in the general election.

TAPPER: One of the challenges I think, you saw it with Chris Christie is, if you're a Republican running against Trump, but you don't want to alienate his supporters, which are -- it's a sizable group, what do you do?

[16:20:07] Take a listen to Ted Cruz saying it will come to him versus Trump. Here's his response to Trump's vulgar remarks about Secretary Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, there're an abundance of political pundits in the world who like Statler and Waldorf assess every comment every candidate makes, I don't need to be another political pundit. I'm going to let Donald Trump speak for himself. I'm going to speak for myself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Statler and Waldorf, for the kids watching out there, they were on the Muppet show.

What should a Republican rival do? What's the appropriate thing when Donald Trump crosses a line and either says something vulgar or, you know, offensive in some other way.

CUPP: Yes, acknowledge it. I mean, you know, I understand that Cruz thinks his path to the nomination is to bear hug Donald Trump and then collect his voters when Donald Trump magically disappears.

But imagine the negative ads. I mean, imagine -- you know, Democrats -- if Ted Cruz wins the nomination, Democrats are going insist the Republicans are running a Donald Trump, and it's going to be easy for them to do if it's Ted Cruz with some of the sound.

Really hard to do if it's Jeb Bush. Really hard to do if it's Chris Christie. But not hard to do if it's Ted Cruz who has said, I'm not going to really get in there and insult him. I think Donald Trump is fantastic.

TAPPER: What's interesting about this, Ben, Hillary Clinton is imminently beatable if you look at new Quinnipiac poll out today. It shows voters say Clinton is not honest, not trustworthy, they say Clinton does not care about their needs and problem, I'm talking about the majority of those polled. They had -- Clinton does not share their values.

This is a vulnerable Democrat.

LABOLT: But she's not running against the almighty. She's running against the alternative. But if you look at the head to head numbers on that Quinnipiac poll, she's doing a lot better.

And, look, what voters are seeing when they tune into this race today are those comments from Donald Trump. Republican primary voters don't reflect the broader general electorate. And I think when we get to that general election, you're going to see more discussion on the issues and Hillary Clinton's going to win that discussion.

TAPPER: All right. Ben LaBolt, S.E. Cupp, thank you. Merry Christmas to both of you. Happy New Year.

Our national lead, personal details released what the San Bernardino terrorists told U.S. officials in order to get a visa to enter the country. We've just obtained that visa. We'll show it to you.

Plus, a brazen robbery. A Secret Service agent's gun, badge, computer flash drive stolen from a Secret Service agent in broad daylight. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:25:50] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

We're following some breaking news in our national lead on the San Bernardino terrorist attack. CNN has obtained a copy of Tashfeen Malik's visa application. She, of course, is the female terrorist who along with her husband slaughtered Syed Rizwan Farook slaughtered 14 people earlier this month.

The pair met in 2013. She was granted entry into the U.S. in July of last year. Rizwan Farook was a U.S. citizen, he was born in Chicago.

Let's get right to CNN's Kyung Lah. She's live in Los Angeles.

Kyung, what does this application reveal?

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It really reveals the process of how she got into the United States. This is a 21-page visa application, the very first look that we're getting into how Tashfeen Malik applied and then entered the United States on a fiancee visa. It was released by the committee looking into whether or not, there were shortfalls in that visa process. The committee in releasing this 21-page document pointed to this particular page, and what the page shows is a couple of stamps where the committee says they weren't properly translated.

It's a page from her visa, a visa, a Saudi visa, that she used to enter the country, they say wasn't properly translated. But what we're hearing from the Department of Homeland Security, when we reached out to U.S. citizens and immigration services, that Malik passed a number of background checks that all different stages that there were no red flags. So, in the interview process, that's why they focused on the marriage and whether they intended to marry.

Most interesting to us, though, Jake, this page, intention to marry. You get to really hear from Syed Rizwan Farook on what he saw in his wife, how it all happened. He writes, "My fiance and I met through an online Web site after several weeks of e-mailing, we decided to meet each other. He describes how they then met in person in Saudi Arabia. He adds, "My fiancee and I intend to marry within the first month of her arriving in the U.S." Jake? TAPPER: All right. Kyung Lah, thank you so much.

Also in national news, a security scare near the White House today. CNN has learned someone made off with a Secret Service's gun, his badge, and a computer flash drive, all in broad daylight. This after breaking into agent's personal car in Washington, D.C., another apparent black eye for the embattled Secret Service agency.

CNN's Joe Johns joins me now.

Joe, kind of scary to think what somebody might be able to do with a Secret Service badge and gun.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It is. And it's really surprising, too. More trouble for the Secret Service, not only because an agent's gun and badge are missing, but also it appears to have been a brazen car break-in during the day in Washington, D.C., not far from headquarters.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voices-over): The U.S. Secret Service, whose job it is to protect the first family, can't seem to stay out of the headlines. This time, an agent said to work in the presidential protective division, gets his service weapon and badge stolen among other items in a car break-in.

Ron Kessler is author of "The First Family Detail" about the Secret Service.

RON KESSLER, AUTHOR, "FIRST FAMILY DETAIL" : This is a total violation of basic security rules involving any law enforcement to allow a gun, a badge, to be locked up in a car, left unattended.

JOHNS: It happened in broad daylight, outside Secret Service headquarters just blocks from the White House. The Metropolitan Police Department report on the incident lists everything stolen including -- the black Sig Sauer handgun, a radio, handcuffs, flash drive, not clear what was on it, a black bag and a Secret Service badge, all of which is fresh fodder for critics who have already been harping on the agency's record.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: They are supposed to be guarding the president of the United States of America.

KESSLER: It goes back to a really rotten management culture in the Secret Service which condones corner cutting, laxness.

JOHNS: The Secret Service declined to comment on the incident, but a law enforcement official says the USB is encrypted and password protected and its theft does s not appear to be a threat to the agency.

The incident adds a long list of Secret Service breaches and embarrassments in the last few years. Just last month, a man was taken into custody after jumping over a White House fence, while the first family was inside celebrating Thanksgiving.

Also in November, a Secret Service officer assigned to the White House was arrested after he was caught in a sting allegedly sending naked pictures of himself.