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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Murder Motive; Clinton, Cruz Take Iowa; Trump: I Spent Very Little in Iowa; Interview with Reince Priebus; Carson Campaign: "Dirty Tricks" Hurt Us; Interview with Ben Carson. Aired 4:00-4:30p ET

Aired February 2, 2016 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:15]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: It's Groundhog Day. What do you say we do this all over again, this time in New Hampshire?

THE LEAD starts right now.

All of a sudden, second place isn't just the first loser. Who now will feel Donald Trump's wrath after his silver finish in Iowa?

Overtime -- a ridiculously close race between Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders. And now we have a mathematical winner by the closest margin ever seen. But there is plenty of unfinished business.

Plus, she was just 13 years old, kidnapped, stabbed to death, left 100 miles from home. Did two college students conspire to kill her?

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

A momentous night for politics. And that's where we begin today, with the politics lead.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have already moved on to New Hampshire, first in the nation for the primary, each candidate claiming the wind is at his or her back. After an extremely close race in Iowa, Clinton just pronounced the caucus winner by the Iowa Democratic Party. She's relishing her victory and breathing a sigh of relief that she avoided a loss that could have hobbled her campaign.

And yet, last night, Bernie Sanders showing he has strength, too. He can translate his grassroots buzz into cold, hard votes, just, as of now, not enough of them.

But that could change in New Hampshire, where, in the town of Keene, we find CNN senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns.

Joe, Clinton's Iowa victory, coming eight years after a bruising defeat for her, in a state that her campaign worried possibly too liberal and, frankly, too white for her to win. She's got to be feeling good today.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Quite a turnaround, Jake. Photo finish is right. A very, very narrow win for Hillary Clinton, but a far cry from the disappointing loss she suffered in Iowa eight years ago.

The Sanders campaign already pointing out that this was anything but a decisive victory for her. Sanders is speaking right now in the theater behind me to a very large and enthusiastic crowd that started gathering hours ago here in Keene, New Hampshire.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am so thrilled that I'm coming to New Hampshire after winning Iowa.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

JOHNS (voice-over): Hillary Clinton riding high today after narrowly edging out Bernie Sanders by fractions of a percent in the Iowa caucuses.

CLINTON: As I stand here tonight, breathing a big sigh of relief, thank you, Iowa.

JOHNS: The contest was the closest in Iowa Democratic caucus history, a race with a margin so razor-thin the winner could not be determined until hours ago, when the Iowa Democratic Party released final numbers. Sanders' campaign manager today saying they're not planning to challenge the result.

JEFF WEAVER, BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: We're not contesting the election. But what we'd like to do is we would like to know the truth on the ground.

CLINTON: What a night, an unbelievable night. What a great campaign.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tonight, while the results are still not known, it looks like we are in a virtual tie.

JOHNS: Clinton believes the victory will help set her campaign on a course for the Democratic nomination.

CLINTON: I think that Democratic voters and other Americans want to know what are the principal differences between me and my friend and opponent, Senator Sanders?

JOHNS: But Sanders says the fight for the Democratic nomination is just getting started.

SANDERS: I think the people of Iowa have sent a very profound message to the political establishment, to the economic establishment, and, by the way, to the media establishment.

JOHNS: As they both now steamroll into the Granite State for a primary just one week away, brimming with confidence in their campaigns, Clinton is claiming her Iowa within will boost her campaign's enthusiasm.

CLINTON: I have won and I have lost there. It's a lot better to win. And we're bringing all of that energy all that excitement, all that determination right here to New Hampshire.

JOHNS: And Sanders saying he will defeat Clinton in New Hampshire.

SANDERS: You know, we just got in from Iowa, where we astounded the world.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SANDERS: And now in New Hampshire, we're going to astound the world again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: And we are hoping to get a chance to talk to Bernie Sanders in just a little while in a media availability after his event here in Keene, New Hampshire.

While this is not his home state, it's pretty clear that it's pretty close. And you can tell that from the reception he's getting from the crowd -- Jake, back to you.

[16:05:02]

TAPPER: All right, Joe Johns, thank you so much.

Joining me from New Hampshire, Manchester, to be precise, Brian Fallon is Hillary Clinton's national press secretary.

Brian, congratulations on the win, hard-fought, I know.

BRIAN FALLON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Thank you. It was. We're very pleased.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Go ahead.

FALLON: Go ahead, Jake. Sorry.

I was just going to say, you know, I think a week or so ago, if you had told the Sanders campaign that the turnout would be above 170,000, I think they would have predicted victory. In fact, I know they were doing that privately to reporters.

So, to have a turnout like that last night and to see Hillary Clinton prevail in a state where she came up short in 2008, in a state that has a caucus system where Senator Sanders predicts that in March he will be successful in the other types of caucus states, this was a big victory for us.

And I think it speaks to level of enthusiasm that indeed surrounds this campaign.

TAPPER: Well, to be perfectly candid, your campaign also thought that turnout that high might mean a Sanders victory. But let's move forward to New Hampshire. You got the W. last night, no question. In New Hampshire, Sanders

leads Clinton 55 percent to 37 percent in CNN's new poll of polls. He's obviously from neighboring Vermont. And a big challenge for you is that New Hampshire is packed with independents. That's a group that Clinton has struggled to win over. How are you going to beat him in New Hampshire? And can you beat him in New Hampshire?

FALLON: Well, we're going to work our heart out all week this week. Obviously, we came here right after her victory speech last night in Iowa. We flew overnight.

She did an event this morning in Nashua. She's got another event tonight. We're going to be here all week. We have got a town hall forum on this network. We have got a debate as well in New Hampshire later this week.

So we're going to have plenty of opportunities to speak to the voters here. There's no question that we enter one week out from New Hampshire slightly behind, and, as you noted, there is something of a regional advantage here for Senator Sanders. Neighboring state elected officials tend to do very well in this primary.

But New Hampshire's been a state that historically has been kind to the Clintons, obviously made Bill Clinton the comeback kid in '92, helped her in 2008. She pulled out a victory here. So, we're going to pour our heart into this contest over the next seven days, and anything can happen.

TAPPER: That's right. Obviously, you can look at the election results and just say, yes, you won, but you can also dive into the data, as I'm sure you and your team of experts is, and looking for areas where you can improve for future contests.

FALLON: Sure.

TAPPER: Among the Iowa Democrats who cited honest and trustworthy as the most important candidate quality, Clinton lost significantly by something like 73 points. Among those who cited cares about people like me as the most important candidate quality, Hillary Clinton lost by 52 points.

How is she going to convince skeptical Democrats and independents in New Hampshire that she cares about people like them and that she's honest and trustworthy?

FALLON: Well, there were a lot of areas in the entrance polling that the networks conducted that I think speak to areas where we know we have room to grow.

And we're going to continue to talk about the issues that she's made the causes of her life and her career in public service. But I think that there was also plenty in those numbers that foretold success on the road ahead in terms of the coalition that we are seeking to build that is going to help propel us to the nomination.

For instance, she did very well with women over Senator Sanders, did very well with African-American voters in the Iowa caucuses that showed up, did very well, plus-9 percent advantage with union workers. And among those who said that the number one issue was jobs and the economy, which I think most Democrats agree is the number one issue on our side, she had a plus-9 percentage advantage there, too.

So, there was a lot for us to build off of last night.

TAPPER: Absolutely.

There was -- in terms of women voters, I think a lot of people who wonder, why is Hillary Clinton having such a difficult time winning over young women voters? That's a group, if you look at under 30, Sanders won them 84 percent to 14 percent, 30-44, 53 to 42 percent. Those are surprising numbers to a lot of people.

FALLON: Well, like I said, we had a big victory among women overall last night.

Among young women on the trail, we find that, as Hillary Clinton gets to meet and interact with younger women, one-on-one, along -- even in just brief encounters on the campaign trail after events, it has a lasting impact. And we find that those are some of our most committed supporters that then show up and do volunteer shifts for us.

So, I think that it's really just a matter of continuing to put her out there in smaller settings, intimate settings, town hall settings, where she has the opportunity to have interactions and exchanges and really communicate about why these issues that are so important to young women have also continued to motivate her throughout her career.

[16:10:01]

TAPPER: All right, Brian Fallon, thanks so much. We will see you on the campaign trail.

FALLON: Thanks, Jake. We will see you out here in New Hampshire soon enough, I'm sure.

TAPPER: After getting beaten by Ted Cruz in Iowa, Donald Trump went dark on social media for hours, only to reemerge with a full-fledged Twitter fit. He says the voters are not giving him enough credit and maybe it's not worth it. Could the billionaire be having second thoughts?

That story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

And keeping with our politics lead today, the pundits said that Donald Trump, he was unstoppable. They pointed out that he led in the overwhelming majority of polls in the state of Iowa, polls he would read from the podium at each appearance, inevitable, until the voters actually got involved. So, instead, this morning, it's a reality check for the reality TV

star. While Iowans didn't quite fire Trump, they're sure not ready yet to hire him as their next commander in chief.

Today, Donald Trump is explaining why he lost on Twitter, saying he -- quote -- "spent very little there" both in time and ad money compared to with winner Ted Cruz.

CNN political reporter Sara Murray is in New Hampshire, where Trump, according to polls, holds commanding a lead as of now, that is, if you still trust polls this election cycle.

[16:15:02] Sara, New Hampshire might prove to be far more favorable ground for Donald Trump with all of those independents and far fewer religious conservatives.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right, Jake.

In a lot of ways, a New York billionaire who has been married three times was never going to be the perfect fit for Iowa and it's kind of remarkable that he did as well as he did there.

But now, the race moves on to New Hampshire, and we'll see what Donald -- what tone Donald Trump takes at his rally here tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY (voice-over): After a humble concession speech in Iowa --

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was told by everybody, do not go to Iowa. We finished second. And I want to tell you something, I'm just honored.

MURRAY: Today, Donald Trump is back on the warpath, taking to Twitter to slam the media coverage of his lost to Ted Cruz, and grumbling that voters don't appreciate that he's self-funding his campaign, saying, "I don't believe I've been given any credit by the voters for self- funding my campaign, the only one. I will keep doing but not worth it."

As promised, Trump heads to the Granite State.

TRUMP: We'll be in New Hampshire, and that will be something special. It's going to be a great week.

MURRAY: Where he's hoping to regain his footing and leads his closest competitor by more than 2-1 margin in the latest CNN/WMUR poll. While that competitor, Ted Cruz, enjoys his victory lap.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So what a victory last night.

MURRAY: Today, the Texas senator is campaigning in both New Hampshire and South Carolina, and tearing into Trump as he tries to turn his victory into a winning streak. CRUZ: Donald Trump was saying every day that I was his friend, that

he loved me, that I was terrific, that I was nice. And now, I'm an anchor baby.

MURRAY: With just seven days until the primaries, a crowded field is quickly turning vicious.

CRUZ: Marco made the decision, the conscious, deliberate decision to go and stand with Barack Obama and Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid and to lead the fight for amnesty.

MURRAY: Last night, Marco Rubio relished in his strong third-place showing in Iowa, hot on Trump's heels.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm grateful to you, Iowa. You believed in me when others didn't think this night would be possible.

MURRAY: Today, he's a prime target especially for establishment candidates like John Kasich and Chris Christie who were banking on New Hampshire.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's get the boy in the bubble out of the bubble and let's see him play for the next week in New Hampshire. I'm ready to play. I hope he is.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now tonight, Jake, Donald Trump is going to try to get his groove back here in New Hampshire. Scott Brown is expected to endorse him here tonight. They're expected to hold a press conference together. So, we'll see if that might give him this added boost here in the second nominating state -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. The boy in the bubble. Sara Murray, thanks so much.

Joining me now, chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus.

Mr. Chairman, thanks so much for joining us. Congratulations on the record turnout.

And something that not a lot of people are talking about, the first Latino ever in American history to win a primary or caucus.

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Yes, and it's in the Republican Party. So, Ted Cruz and look at the top four, you have Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, it's pretty remarkable. The diversity, the youth, the excitement that we have in our party, the record breaking turnout.

As I've said before, it's true, we've got -- we've got drama and intrigue going on in our primary, we do, so do Democrats. But we have been blowing the doors off of the interests that people have in this primary for, you know, it seems like six or seven months now. So, I think it's great for us moving into November, Jake.

TAPPER: Among people who decided in the last few days leading up to the caucuses, according to polls most or a plurality chose Marco Rubio, only 13 percent chose Donald Trump. Do you think that that's correlated to Trump's decision to not participate in the debate last week?

PRIEBUS: Yes, I've heard people debating that issue, Jake, today, just like you have. And who knows? I mean, I would say, though, I think it's important for candidates to participate in these debates. Candidates can do what they want. You know, but I do think that these things are so big that they're really important and we're going to have another big one here later on in the week in New Hampshire.

TAPPER: An adviser to Rubio's campaign, Rich Beeson, told donors in a conference call today it's time for everyone except for Rubio, Trump and Cruz, to drop out of the race. Now, I know you'll never go that far.

But what are you telling supporters who think the field does need to narrow, if not now, then at least after New Hampshire, that some of these candidates need to drop out?

PRIEBUS: Well, look, I mean, I've said it many times fore.

[16:20:00] We've got a lot of candidates and it does -- I mean, managing the primaries is what we have to do, makes it tougher but I'm not really complaining about it. I do think at some point, though, this is going to come down to delegates. After Super Tuesday on March 1st, when 16 states or so go, the media's not going to sit around and talk about, well, what's going on in Mississippi, what's happening in Alabama. They're going to say, what's the delegate count?

That's going to slow things down. The Democrats, Jake, will have a bigger problem because their entire calendar is on a proportional basis, which means even if Hillary won 60/40 from here through March and April, she can hardly get to a place where she has a majority of delegates. On our end, we start winner-take-all on March 15th and it will speed up the process.

TAPPER: Interesting.

PRIEBUS: So, a lot going on. It just got started.

TAPPER: Ben Carson placed fourth in Iowa. I want you to take a listen to how he explained his showing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was reasonably happy today until I, you know, discovered dirty tricks that were going on and people spreading rumors that I had dropped out and that people should caucus for somebody else. I mean, do you think that that is something that's acceptable?

AUDIENCE: No! (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, it's clear that Cruz's campaign last night seized on a CNN report that Carson, instead of going to New Hampshire or South Carolina, was going to Florida to rest. And then after we did that report, we never said he was dropping out and we never said he was giving a speech, after that, Cruz supporters misrepresented that report and told caucusgoers that Carson planned to quit the race and was going to give a major speech in the next week and that those caucusgoers should support Cruz.

Is there any recourse for Dr. Carson here?

PRIEBUS: Well, I think that Cruz campaign explained that and explained that they had mentioned that he was going to Florida.

Look, I mean, for me to get in the middle of litigating these things that are going on behind the scenes that we find out about the next day, I think it was explained by one of the campaigns as to what happened. You take them at their word for it we move on to the next state.

TAPPER: All right. Mr. Chairman, thank you so much. And congratulations again on the record turnout in Iowa.

PRIEBUS: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Dr. Ben Carson leaving Iowa before the votes were counted because he wanted to get ahead of the storm. There's a big blizzard coming in. But now he says he had to head home to Florida to do laundry, not to rest but because he needs new clean clothes. What's going on with his campaign? That story next.

Plus, a 13-year-old child killed, now two Virginia tech students under arrest, one charged with murder, the other one with being an accessory. Police just released new details about her murder. That tragic story, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:27:03] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Almost every presidential candidate hopped a plane last night headed straight to New Hampshire for next week's primary, except for Dr. Ben Carson who detoured to Florida to pick up a fresh set of clothes, according to his campaign, after 17 days on the road.

Hours ago, Senator Ted Cruz apologized in a press statement to Dr. Carson because last night, some members of the Cruz team took the news that Carson was not heading straight to New Hampshire or South Carolina and incorrectly told voters that the media, specifically, CNN, had reported that Carson was dropping out. The Cruz team urged Carson supporters in Iowa to throw their support to Cruz.

Cruz national co-chair, Congressman Steve King, tweeted with CNN reporting, quote, "Carson looks like he is out. Iowans need to know before they vote, most will go to Cruz, I hope."

That is, of course, not what CNN reported. Here's an e-mail, a Cruz staffer sent to Cruz's precinct captains, quote, "Breaking news, the press is reporting that Dr. Ben Carson taking time off from the campaign trail after Iowa making a big announcement next week. Please inform any Carson caucusgoers of this news and urge them to caucus for Ted Cruz." Again, not what CNN reported.

For the record, CNN never reported that Carson was out or that he was making a big announcement next week. Dr. Carson who finished in fourth place in Iowa today called the tactics by the Cruz team lies and dirty tricks. Cruz said his staffers are should have corrected themselves and told voters that Carson was not dropping out.

Dr. Carson now joins me by phone. He's in West Palm Beach to talk about this controversy and about his campaign.

Dr. Carson, thanks for joining us. Are you satisfied with Ted Cruz's apology?

CARSON (via telephone): Well, you know, as a Christian, I will accept an apology. But it doesn't correct the problem. You know, this is a cultural issue when people in your campaign feel that it's OK to distort the issues to their political advantage and to tell absolute lies.

And the question really is, will there be any consequences for that, or are we looking at same kind of thing that we saw with the IRS scandal, you know, slap on the hand and nobody losses a job. You know, I just think there needs to be some type of responsibility, it's because if we don't assign responsibility and consequences, what keeps this from continuing to happen?

TAPPER: So, you would like somebody from the Cruz campaign to be fired or have Steve King even step down as co-chair? What do you want?

CARSON: I think whoever is responsible for blatant lying should be dismissed, absolutely.

TAPPER: Now --

CARSON: Unless, unless that behavior is acceptable in your campaign culture.

TAPPER: Now, to be candid, to talk about your decision to go to Florida, it is rather unusual -- and I realize you're an outsider candidate -- but it is rather unusual you're not in New Hampshire right now.