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Palin Stumps for Trump; Interview with Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky; Interview with Mayor Karen Weaver of Flint, Michigan. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired January 20, 2016 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You know, the Dow has had such a wild day, we have rewritten this headline five times.

THE LEAD starts right now.

A brand-new poll showing Donald Trump still has a bear hug on the Republican race, as mama grizzly herself hits the trail with him today. But is Sarah Palin going to be enough to deliver Iowa?

Michigan's governor now admitting the government failed the city of Flint and apologizing for a water crisis that may leave a generation of children in that city with health problems. Who exactly failed the children of Flint? The mayor will be here to talk about the crisis.

Plus, snow-M-G. It could be the storm your future children will be some day be tired of hearing you tell stories about, bigger than snowmageddon and snowpocalypse, a colossal, ridiculous amount of snow making its way east. Guess who's in the bullseye?

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

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

We're going to begin today with some breaking news.

As we are hearing the merciful sound of the closing bell after one of the wildest days on Wall Street in recent memory, the Dow finishing down 247 points, anything looking like a victory at this point after it dropped 540 points earlier this afternoon.

CNN's Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange. Also with me, CNN's global economic analyst Rana Foroohar.

Alison, let me start with you.

What happened? Why such a roller coaster today?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Holy whiplash. It was really a roller coaster. You saw the Dow fall as much as 566 points. And then, in the final hour of the trading day, we saw the Dow come back, only ending 247 points lower. What's going on here? One trader puts it this way, don't be fooled by

the comeback that you saw the major indices make. He's actually calling this a sucker's rally, saying this is an example of a knee- jerk reaction from traders and investors who are buying into what they see as an oversold market, a market where the sellers are exhausted.

And then you see the buyers come back and then a herd mentality take over when the buyers get in. This prediction from the trader is this. He says, don't be fooled by this. He expects the market to continue going lower, in fact, go lower than where we saw it today. He said this is not over yet.

TAPPER: Rana, you're in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum. You have the business elite of the world gathered right now. Do these titans of industry seem concerned at all about this market meltdown?


And, you know, I think the underlying story here, Jake, is this is a tale of two Chinas. There's been a lot of data coming out of China. Some of it makes the country's growth look very negative. It's a very negative story about falling GDP, a big debt bubble in China. But there are some other numbers that actually makes it look like, hey, the consumer boom is still happening.

Wages are still rising. I think investors are trying to figure out which story is the right story. Where is China going? Because China and the emerging markets now make up 40 percent of the global economy. What happens there will mean -- it will affect the world. It will mean whether we go into a global recession this year or not.

TAPPER: Alison, we have been watching markets follow the lead of oil as prices go down. How long will oil cause this freak show?

KOSIK: Well, what's funny is the freak show, no one knows when the freak show is going to end. I mean, we look at where oil is. Oil is at lows that we haven't seen in 12 years, ending below $27 a barrel, the biggest one-day percentage drop since September, down about 7 percent today.

Usually, you don't see oil and stocks moving in lockstep, meaning moving the same direction. So, historically, we're seeing some really big changes here. The thing is, there's a lot of uncertainty as to where the bottom is for oil. Some are predicting that oil prices could go to as low as $10 a barrel, and that is the concern at this point, though no one really knows how low oil is going to go, Jake.

TAPPER: Rana, of the major global markets, six are down 20 percent from their all-time highs. If the rest of the world is in an economic slowdown, how long can the U.S. stay strong or at least as strong as it is?

FOROOHAR: That is the big question.

You know, if you look back to the 1990s, when there was a big Asian economic crisis, the U.S. kept growing strongly. But back then, China did not make up the kind of percentage of the global economy that it does now. As I said before, the emerging markets led by China are now almost half of the global economy.

There are a lot of people here that are saying that they think this year is the year that the U.S. recovery gets slowed down by these headwinds from the emerging markets, and the debt crisis that is really echo of our subprime crisis.

TAPPER: All right, Rana Foroohar and Alison Kosik, thanks to both of you.


Let's pivot now to our politics lead. Donald Trump is nothing if not over the top, but the very person who could maybe actually put him over the top in Iowa and on the fast track to the Republican nomination, the one who was supposed to be right next to him this morning in Iowa, well, she was a no-show.

Last night, Sarah Palin threw all her Tea Party bona fides behind Donald Trump. Trump is betting that her loyal following could go his way and potentially be the difference maker with just 12 days to go before voting kicks off.

Palin did join up with Trump on the trail this afternoon.

And CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is in Tulsa, Oklahoma, stop number two for Donald Trump today.

Jim, Palin showed up. What did she have to say this time?


Jake, going rogue never felt so good for conservatives. Donald Trump and Sarah Palin on the campaign trail with less than two weeks to go to the Iowa caucuses, and while they may not be future running mates, Palin's support, as you said, might be just the boost Trump needs to stay on top in this race.


ACOSTA (voice-over): It's a match made in Tea Party heaven, Donald Trump and Sarah Palin dishing out the conservative red meat and wooing evangelical voters at the Christian conservative-founded Oral Roberts University.

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Our candidate is ballsy enough to get out there and put those issues on the table, the issues that a lot of other candidates have wanted to duck and run from.

ACOSTA: Trump debuted a new line of attack, not on a Republican, but on Democrat Bernie Sanders.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This guy, he's a whack job. He's a wacko. He's beating Hillary Clinton. Oh, boy, and I tell you what, I really want to run against her, but I really would like to run against Bernie Sanders.

ACOSTA: Palin's jaw-dropping endorsement lit up the social media universe of 21st century campaigning.

PALIN: Go kick ISIS' ass!

ACOSTA: "I'm With Stupid" blared "The New York Daily News." "Lady and the Trump" screamed "The New York Post." And Palin is already full of surprises. Despite a campaign announcement that said she would be at Trump's side on this day, she was a no-show at his morning event, where the real estate tycoon tore into Ted Cruz's eligibility to be president.

TRUMP: Honestly, Ted has a problem, because how can you have -- let's say you have him as a candidate and he's running and then you find out you lose in court, you don't have a candidate all of a sudden.

ACOSTA: Trump still holds a commanding lead in the latest national polls, ahead of Cruz and the rest of the pack by double digits. In New Hampshire, Cruz brushed off the Palin endorsement and blasted Trump's support for ethanol as pandering to corn growers in Iowa.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump promised not only to protect the ethanol mandate, but to expand it, to have the federal government do even more picking winners and losers by mandating ethanol be a larger part of the marketplace.


ACOSTA: And the big question is whether this Palin endorsement will translate into votes.

Many Republicans used to think it was a mistake for John McCain to choose Palin as his running mate in 2008. But in this outsider presidential campaign, courting a Palin endorsement is a no-brainer, Jake. And one thing that would should point out, when Palin was not with Trump earlier in the day, Trump went after Cruz.

With Palin at his side, Trump did not go after Cruz. Might just be a coincidence, but it was something we picked up on here out on the campaign trail today, Jake.

TAPPER: Very interesting.

Palin, of course, has said nice things about Ted Cruz in the past as well.

ACOSTA: Absolutely.

TAPPER: Jim Acosta, appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Let's go to our world lead, more breaking news, new information in the search for missing American Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran in 2007. This week, we spoke with Levinson's family. They're upset that he was not one of the Americans released by Iran this weekend. The White House told reporters that there's a reason Levinson was not part of that prisoner swap.


JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have reason to believe that he no longer is in Iran.


TAPPER: But that is not what U.S. officials are telling our own Evan Perez.

Evan, what have you heard?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, FBI investigators believe that if Robert Levinson is still alive, he's being held in Iran.

Now, that's in contrast to the comments that we have heard from the White House and State Department officials saying that Levinson is no longer believed to be in Iran. Levinson is a former FBI agent. And at the time he disappeared in 2007, he was working as a CIA contractor. His family has been highly critical of this deal announced this weekend in which Iran released five U.S. citizens it held in prison, while the U.S. released seven Iranians it held and dropped charges against others.

The U.S. says that Iran promised to provide help with the investigation into Levinson's disappearance, but Iran has always denied knowing about Levinson's whereabouts. And the family last received proof of life on Levinson in 2010 and 2011, a video and photo showing him pleading for help.

At the time, officials said that analysis of the video and photo showed that Levinson was likely being held not in Iran, but in Southwest Asia, perhaps Pakistan. Now, FBI investigators believe that Levinson all along was being held in Iran.

And here's one thing that there's agreement among officials, no matter which agency you talk to. The possibility exists that Levinson died in captivity years ago, Jake.


We just got a statement from the Levinson family. They're obviously not very pleased with this. They say: "If this is true, it is outrageous that after nine years members of the U.S. government are still not on the same page about getting Bob home. This confirms our belief that some in the administration have not made Bob a priority and that's why he's still a hostage," Jake.

TAPPER: So rough for that family. Evan Perez, thank you so much.

More in our politics lead. What on Earth does "Lord of the Rings" have to do with the 2016 presidential race? Well, Republican presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul will explain next.


TAPPER: Welcome back.

More now on our politics lead.

One year from today, the United States of America will inaugurate a new president. And the first votes in that process begin in just 12 days in Iowa.


[16:15:02] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back.

More now on our politics lead. One year from today, the United States of America will inaugurate a new president. And the first votes in that process begin in just 12 days in Iowa. "The Des Moines Register", the paper of record there is set to unveil their endorsements this Saturday night. But Republicans in the Hawkeye State perked up in a different Republican last night, former presidential candidate Sarah Palin blessing Donald Trump's bid for the Oval Office.

Joining me now to talk about the state of the Republican race, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Senator, thanks for being here. Appreciate it.

Sarah Palin endorsed you when you ran for Senate in Kentucky. It gave you something of a boost.

When I asked her about which candidate she liked a few weeks ago, she praised Trump, she praised Cruz, she also praised you. You must be a little disappointed.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think that -- yes, sure. We'd love to have her endorsement. But I think really the question still isn't her endorsement, the question, is Donald Trump a conservative?

And I've often said that I think he is a fake conservative because the Tea Party movement got started because we were upset with bailing out the big banks. Donald Trump favored that. The Tea Party also got started because we were upset with Obamacare and a single-payer where the government's in charge of health care, Trump supported that.

So, I think really that he isn't a conservative. And the endorsement may help people to think he is, but I don't really think he is a conservative.

TAPPER: You're certainly not the first person to make that charge. Why do you think it hasn't stuck? Because there obviously is something of a paper trail of his giving money to Democratic politicians, saying nice things about Secretary of State Clinton.

PAUL: Right.

TAPPER: How come nothing sticks to him?

PAUL: There could be this small thing that if you add up all the time he's gotten on TV compared to the rest of the candidates, he's gotten 25 times more than all the rest of the candidates combined. So, it's a question, do the polling come and so the news covered him, or did the news coverage cause the poll him, the chicken and the egg kind of thing?

The other thing is, is the polling accurate? We think it's wildly inaccurate and that you may be surprised on February 1st.

TAPPER: Governor Branstad in Iowa says that Ted Cruz has the best ground game in Iowa. You say you're going to surprise us all the night of the Iowa caucuses by a stronger showing than anticipated. What do you have in Iowa going that Governor Branstad doesn't see?

PAUL: We have 1,000 precinct chairs. There's 1,600 precincts in Iowa. We have 1,000 precinct chairs. That's not a small feat to get 1,000 people that are your leader in the precinct will help get turnout and actually will speak for your candidacy on that night.

I was just there this weekend. If you go into our headquarters, you'll see 100 young men and women making phone calls. They made half a million phone calls trying to find who our voters are and to try to turn them out.

This is an operation that at least rivals Cruz's operation, probably exceeds Trump operation 678. And really exceeds probably everybody else in the field. So, there are two or three people that have an operation to turn out voters in Iowa, and we're one of them. And we think it's unheralded.

TAPPER: Do you think that Trump is stealing the traditional Rand Paul and Ron Paul voters, that is people who are anti-establishment, mistrustful of government, angry? I mean, has Trump gobbled them all up?

PAUL: Maybe some of them. But one of the interesting thing is "The Des Moines Register" did a poll recently, and in that poll, they said how many of you are going to vote for Rand Paul? And it was about 5 percent. How many of you voted for Ron Paul? It wasn't much different. However, he got over 20 percent in the election.

So we think that the pollsters aren't finding my dad's voters aren't finding our voters. Many of our voters are young. They have cell phones. They don't show up in surveys. And many of our people just, I think, are outside the normal traditional Republican voter. They're people who have voted and will turn out that aren't on the traditional list of people that pollsters are calling.

TAPPER: All right. I have to ask you about this. You have said you'll support the Republican nominee whoever it is even if it's Donald Trump. Today, you wrote a Facebook post in which you likened Donald Trump to Gollum, the bad guy from "Lord of the Rings." There's Gollum. There's a picture of the handsome fella.

OK. How on earth -- or I should probably say how on middle earth is Donald Trump like Gollum?

PAUL: Well, you know, Gollum was after this precious, his little ring, the ring of power. And to him, power was really important to be an obsession. And I think Donald Trump in some ways represents that in the sense that he's so smart, he's so rich, if you just give him power, he's going to fix everything.

But, you know, I come from a tradition, the limited government tradition really we can harken back even to the plains of running, to the barons challenging the king, we believe in limitation of power and we believe that power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

So, we don't want a strong leader. In fact, I tell people all the time, I want to give power back to the states and the people. I want the presidency to have power taken away from it, because I think the president's gotten too powerful.

I don't hear that from Donald Trump. I hear from Donald Trump is, he's so smart, so rich, give him power and he'll fix everything. But that concerns some of us who are students of history who believe too much power is the problem.

[16:20:03] TAPPER: You'll concede that he's better looking than Gollum, though?


PAUL: It was not a physical comparison at all.

TAPPER: Not a physical comparison.

Senator Rand Paul, thank you so much. As I say to every candidate, good luck in Iowa. Hope it's a good night for you. Appreciate it.

Next Monday in Iowa, an event only on CNN, exactly one week before Iowa chooses, Senator Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and former Governor Martin O'Malley will go face-to-face with the voters of Iowa in a CNN Democratic presidential town hall live from Des Moines.

Chris Cuomo will moderate a unique opportunity for Iowans to ask questions of the three Democrats just before the first votes are cast. That's next Monday night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, live only on CNN.

Coming up, he's never been shy about criticizing the president or other politicians. So, what does the former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates have to say about Donald Trump having his finger on the nuclear button?

Plus, the finger-pointing continues in Flint, Michigan, over the poisoned water. Now, President Obama is weighing in. The mayor of Flint will respond, next.


[16:25:04] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In our national lead, you're looking right now at live pictures of President Obama in Detroit, Michigan, where he's touting the comeback of the American auto industry.

His visit comes while the state deals with two major crises including the broke and broken schools in Detroit. The president was greeted by Detroit public school teachers who are holding a rally. Almost all of the city's public schools closed today because teachers called in sick to bring attention to horrifying conditions at their schools. Young students breathing in black mold while sitting in classrooms infested with rodents all because of a lack of funding.

And then there is the lead poisoned water 70 miles away from Detroit in Flint.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am very proud of what I've done as president. But --


The only job that's more important to me is the job of father. And I know that if I was a parent up there, I would be beside myself that my kids' health could be at risk. And that's why over the weekend I declared a federal emergency in Flint to send more resources on top of the assistance that we've already put on the ground.


TAPPER: President Obama will not be making the journey to Flint from Detroit to see firsthand the toxic water catastrophe, but for the first time since 100,000 residents in Flint became exposed to dangerously high levels of lead in their water, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder admitted last night that his government did not do enough.


GOV. RICK SNYDER (R), MICHIGAN: To you, the people of Flint, I say tonight as I have before, I am sorry. And I will fix it.


TAPPER: Governor Snyder also pledging $28 million to solve this crisis. Will that be enough?

Let's bring in our guest, the mayor of Flint, Karen Weaver, who is in Washington for the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting.

Thanks so much for joining me. We should point out to viewers, you were just elected in November in part to fix this crisis. This is not something I'm about to beat you up for ignoring for all this time.

You had a meeting with President Obama in the White House. What did you have to say to him? MAYOR KAREN WEAVER, MAYOR OF Flint: You know, what I wanted to let

him know firsthand on what was going on in Flint and what we were dealing with. This is something we've been dealing with for nearly two years. It will be two years in April.

And it's a two-fault kind of situation. We have an infrastructure crisis, but we have a public health crisis in the city of Flint right now. And even though we have gone back to Lake Huron water through Detroit, we're still in trouble because we still can't drink our water.

TAPPER: What did you first notice -- you're a resident, when did you first notice something was wrong with the water?

WEAVER: Shortly after the switch. And that's when a lot of people notice, shortly after the switch to the Flint River water.

TAPPER: Did you stop drinking it?

WEAVER: I didn't start drinking it.

TAPPER: You never drank it?

WEAVER: No, because I had concerns about the Flint River water right from the beginning.

TAPPER: OK. I want you to listen to Governor Snyder at the State of the State address last night. Here's one of the things he had to say.


SNYDER: For those whose mistakes contributed to this disaster, we are fully cooperating with investigations and will hold those individuals accountable. And let me be perfectly clear to all of state government: in situations like this, they must come to my desk immediately, no delays, no excuses, period.



TAPPER: What's your reaction?

WEAVER: Well, you know, he said some things that we're OK with, but it's not enough. What he did and what was put on the table yesterday really isn't enough.

TAPPER: The $28 million.

WEAVER: That's not enough. No, that's not enough.

TAPPER: What do you need?

WEAVER: That's a very good question. You know, there have been estimates out there, but that's only about infrastructure. That's why we can't say exactly what we need because how do you put a cost on what's happened to what we've done to people, what's happened to them? And we know we have kids that are going to need lifelong services and support. How do you put a cost to that?

TAPPER: A lot of the effects of the lead won't even start showing for five years.

WEAVER: Exactly. So, you know, we have always wanted people held accountable. That was one of our -- why we were so angry and so outraged because no one was being held accountable.

TAPPER: Let me ask you -- in addition to Governor Snyder being held accountable and the people in the state, what about the EPA? The EPA first confirmed that there was something wrong with the water in April, according to "The Detroit News". But the citizens of Flint didn't find out that that was confirmed until months, months later, EPA says, oh, we were trying to deal with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Is the Obama administration responsible as well?

WEAVER: That's been part of the problem is the buck has been passed around and passed around and there's been a lot of finger-pointing. So, a lot of people knew what was going on but nobody came forward in a timely manner. Because, like I said, this will be almost two years in April. It took almost a year for us to get that information.

And so, there's been a lot of passing the buck on this.

TAPPER: It's horrifying though because we're talking about months and months, people knew that there was a problem.

WEAVER: And no one said anything.

TAPPER: People in Michigan with Governor Snyder, people in the EPA, on the federal government and they let kids keep drinking this water.

WEAVER: Exactly. One of the things we did talk about even this morning with EPA was they need to be much more aggressive.