Return to Transcripts main page


Interview with Ben Carson; Results of Iowa Caucuses Examined; Health Officials: U.S. Zika Case Sexually Transmitted; Official: VA Tech Student Stabbed Teen To Death. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 2, 2016 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN: And I realize you're an outsider candidate. But it is rather unusual that you're not in New Hampshire right now. We are in the thick of the campaign. Your explanation, that you need some fresh clothes, is something that maybe your rivals, maybe other journalists on the campaign trail don't understand.

BEN CARSON, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, anybody who has been on the road for almost three weeks recognizes exactly what I'm talking about.

You need some fresh clothes. And it's not like you're going to be there forever. You're going there. It's pretty nice to actually sleep in your own bed every now and then. And if anybody can't understand that, I feel sorry for them.

TAPPER: Where does your campaign go from here, sir? I know that you're going to the prayer breakfast. I believe that's on Thursday. That's where you make your first big national splash by criticizing, albeit politely, President Obama and Obamacare.

What's next for you in terms of your schedule?

CARSON: Well, we're going there. Then we have a fund-raiser in North Carolina. And we're going to New Hampshire, and then we're going to South Carolina, and the whole thing starts up all over again.

TAPPER: Our recent CNN/WMUR poll shows you at 3 percent in New Hampshire. How do you turn that around? How do you get some momentum in the Granite State?

CARSON: Well, I think maybe talking about the policies and getting people to go to our Web site,, and look at our policies.

Look at our tax policy. Look at our economic revival policy, educational policies, policy to defeat ISIS. I think I have more policy than virtually anybody. And if people would look at it, I think they'd be quite favorably impressed.

TAPPER: Can you tell me a state that you think you might be able to win?

CARSON: Well, I think South Carolina is a real likelihood, once we really get there and start rolling.

There's going to be a lot of traction there, because there are a lot of people who are social conservatives and fiscal conservatives. And those are areas that tend to identify strongly with what I have to say.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Ben Carson, thank you so much. We will see you on the campaign trail.

CARSON: All right, thanks so much, Jake.

TAPPER: His brand is winning. But, in Iowa, Trump came closer to third than first. Will the billionaire businessman change his strategy in New Hampshire to make sure he wins this one?

Then, the Dallas Health Department says it has confirmation of a case where the Zika virus was spread through sexual contact right here in the United States -- that alarming story coming up.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Let's do a little bit more on our politics lead, so many storylines coming out of the last night. Is Ted Cruz now the Republican front- runner? Will Donald Trump recapture his mojo with a New Hampshire win? Will Hillary Clinton's victory in Iowa help her in Sanders- friendly New Hampshire? So many mysteries.

Here to answer all our questions and more are CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, CNN political commentator Amanda Carpenter, and CNN political commentator Paul Begala.

David Gergen, let me start with you.

So many polls, including ours, showed Donald Trump winning. In the final tally last night, of course, he came closer to finishing third than he did to finishing first. What happened?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he had a great air game and Ted Cruz had a great ground game. And one of the things we have learned in the Middle East is, if you have an air game, you can't win unless you also have boots on the ground. And he did not have that. He just didn't have the forces on the ground to compete with Ted Cruz.

Cruz just outmatched him on that. You have to give Cruz credit for that. That's how Obama won in large part in 2008. He had a better organization on the ground, surprised in Iowa, did very, very well, and then continued to do extremely well in the caucus states by putting boots on the ground.

And, frankly, Donald Trump is a novice at this. And I don't think he quite got -- he didn't have a good campaign manager to do all of that sort of stuff for him. And I think he just misjudged where he was going to come in.

TAPPER: Amanda, you work for Senator Cruz. As I said to Brian Fallon of the Clinton campaign earlier, congratulations on the victory. But if you dive into results, you can also see some potential problem areas.

Let me ask you about one of them. Cruz obviously won a huge percentage of self-described conservative voters. He only won 9 percent of the moderate vote. Not a problem in Iowa, but Iowa's one of the most conservative states in the nation when it comes to the Republican Party.

This seems like a very difficult task to replicate in other states, where there are more independents and many more moderates.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure, but Cruz's strategy has always been to excite the conservative voters who have been left behind in previous elections.

This is something -- we had a huge turnout. He didn't get that turnout by saying, I'm going to have a mushy middle message. He had an exciting message. People believe that he's going to fight for them on a number of issues where other people are unwilling to take stands. He also had the ground game and the fund-raising to match it. So, those three things together are magic.

TAPPER: All right, Paul Begala, this morning, a super PAC supporting Marco Rubio went up on the air with a spot. Let's take a look.


NARRATOR: Ted Cruz says Donald Trump has boatloads of liberal positions. Donald Trump says Ted Cruz can't beat the Democrats. Well, they're both right. Marco Rubio is the conservative who can win. And Clinton machine knows it.


TAPPER: I think that's true. The Clinton machine knows it. Don't you agree that Marco Rubio is the Democrat that the Clinton machine fears the most?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The one I fear the most is always the one who is doing the best. OK?

Somebody drops out, I think, oh, we could have beaten him.


BEGALA: So, no, you know, be careful what you wish for.

It was before my time, but I know, from people who worked for President Carter, they sat around in that Carter White House and said, we want Reagan. Well, they got Reagan. And they carried four states against him.


So, humility is not my default, Jake, as you know, but I approach this with a degree of humility. I don't want to pick the Republican nominee. Cruz is enormously talented. He just won Iowa. Trump is a phenom.

And, yes, Marco Rubio has great gifts. Will Hillary beat any one of them? You bet.

TAPPER: Interesting.

David Gergen, Ted Cruz is the first Hispanic to ever win a presidential primary or caucus in the United States. Why do you think there's so little celebration of this fact today?

GERGEN: That's a really, really good point. It's almost a footnote, isn't it, to the whole campaign?

Perhaps because he doesn't -- he talks about his Cuban heritage, but, as we all know, there's a difference between being a Cuban American and being a Mexican American. And there are vastly more Mexican Americans and they see themselves as more -- as different, and that they -- if they're one of theirs -- if one of the Castro brothers from San Antonio, for example, should show up on Hillary's ticket, there will be a lot of banging of the drum. Look. Wow, look at this Latino who is on Hillary's ticket.

It isn't working to -- well, Cruz, I assume he will make more of it as times goes on, especially when he goes south to Florida.

TAPPER: Amanda, let me talk to you about what is coming next for Ted Cruz.

Where do you see him aiming his fire? Do you think he's going to start targeting or continue targeting Marco Rubio, or is he going to go after Donald Trump who is ahead in the polls in New Hampshire?

CARPENTER: Well, I think we have seen that Ted Cruz is the only person who can take on Donald Trump now and win. He may try to continue to finish him off.

But the real race -- people want to see a contrast. They think it will ultimately come down to a strong conservative and a more establishment-type person. Donald Trump may be that person. Marco Rubio desperately wants to be make this into a three-person race and have that contrast with Cruz, where it's Cruz-Rubio.

If you look at the super PAC ads and where Marco Rubio has always aimed his fire, press release after press release, against Ted Cruz. Marco Rubio doesn't really want to be in the establishment lane, even though people are putting that mantle on him, because think about it.

Once you get down to it, are you going to win getting endorsements from Jeb Bush, Chris Christie in this kind of Republican primary? No, Marco Rubio has been trying to blunt all of the ammunition that Cruz has used against him and the Gang of Eight, I don't think successfully, but that will continue to play out. One of them will win that fight. Ted Cruz is winning it so far, but it ain't over.

TAPPER: Paul, you advise a pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC, we should point out.


TAPPER: Let me throw some counterspin at you. You had a victory last night. Congratulations. But here's the counterspin from Clinton foes. A 74-year-old Vermont socialist who only recently became a Democrat almost beat your candidate.

BEGALA: And good for him. It's remarkable.

I have been saying this for months. "If six months ago, you would have told me" -- six months ago, I did tell you. This guy is real. It's to his credit.

What's amazing to me, it's impressive. And as a Hillary guy, I like this. Hillary's favorable didn't drop as Bernie's vote rose. So, this is not a rejection of Hillary. It's not a rebellion against Hillary or President Obama, frankly, in whose Cabinet she served.

They like this guy. And I think that Hillary and other Democrats need to learn from him. The most important thing he's doing is energizing young voters. And Democrats can't win without those young voters. And so I hope that Hillary copies and emulates him and contests for those young voters, but it all to the good.

TAPPER: All right, Paul Begala, David Gergen, Amanda Carpenter, thank you, one and all.

Coming up, a 13-year-old girl kidnapped, murdered, and now two college students are charged in connection with her murder. How did a middle schooler connect with college kids?

Plus, could the Zika virus now be spread through sexual contact? That's the frightening claim from one city's health department. The CDC says it isn't so sure -- that story coming up.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We have some disturbing, breaking news in the World Lead now, new development raising the level of alarm regarding the Zika outbreak. Even higher, now health officials say a case of the virus in Texas was sexually transmitted.

This is the same virus that has health officials warning pregnant women not to travel to countries with an outbreak, including U.S. Virgin Islands in the United States. They fear the disease could possibly cause a deadly brain defect in their newborn children.

This comes as CNN cameras went inside the Zika Emergency Operation Center. The Center for Disease, Control and Prevention, is trying to keep this virus from spreading in the U.S.

Chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta joins us now. Sanjay, news of Zika being sexually transmitted add to the concern I would think quite a bit.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, certainly does add to the concern. The CDC already releasing some new guidance saying, look, the best way to avoid Zika is to not only not get mosquito bites, but to also avoid having sex with someone who has been in one of these Zika affected regions or has been ill with Zika.

The story that we now know, Jake, is that this man, a man went to Venezuela, an area that we know Zika is circulating, came back, developed some symptoms of a Zika infection. He subsequently was found to have the Zika virus as was his sexual partner, someone who had never left the United States.

That's how they confirmed this in fact was sexually transmitted within the United States. All of this confirmation taking place at CDC, as you just saw. We got a chance to take a look inside.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to day 12 of the IMS activation for Zika virus.

GUPTA (voice-over): Every morning, this is the first place the CDC Director Tom Friedan will look to get the latest on the Zika virus.

DR. TOM FRIEDAN, DIRECTOR, CDC: The board tells us what's going on at a glance. We see outbreaks around the world, where they're happening. We also look at details of our response. This is the Zika virus.

GUPTA (on camera): That's it, right there?

[16:50:06]FRIEDAN: This is what it looks like under the electronic microscope.

GUPTA: Shouldn't we be scared of Zika or is the emotional part of this with regard to pregnant women and microcephaly sort of making this indiscriminately more -- having more impact?

FRIEDAN: Over and over again nature deals us with wild cards. In the case of Zika, the real tragedy is a family that had a child with microcephaly. We know that's devastating. I think that what's driving the concern. This is a nasty mosquito.

GUPTA: Is this the one?

FRIEDAN: This is the one.

GUPTA: Is there anything good about these guys? Would you get rid of them? They've caused more death than wars, natural disasters and everything put together.

FRIEDAN: You know, the mosquito kills more people than any other animal on earth.

GUPTA: Do you have any thoughts about possibly using DDT? FRIEDAN: The fact is that DDT was widely used 50 years ago and virtually eliminated this mosquito from the Americas, but DDT was also widely used in agriculture, got into the environment and had serious problems in the environment for many species. It remains in the body for a long time. We're looking at safer, more effective ways to kill mosquitoes.

If you are in an area with Zika, there are a lot of things you can do. Wear mosquito repellent, long sleeves, clothing that has permethrine (ph) put into it, all of those things work.

And staying inside in a screened space, air-conditioned space, can drastically reduce your risk of getting a mosquito bite.


GUPTA: We are learning so much more, Jake, about this. If you think about malaria, for example, is a virus that can be transmitted via mosquitoes but not through sex. HIV is a virus that can be transmitted through sex but not mosquitoes.

It appears, Jake, that Zika can be transmitted through both, but still much, much more likely through mosquitoes. We're going to learn a lot more about this. This is happening real-time, Jake. As we get more information, we'll bring it to you.

TAPPER: Very worrisome. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

A college freshman track star charged with murder in killing a 13- year-old girl. Police seemed certain they have their guy. What could the motive possibly be? That story next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. A heart wrenching story in our National Lead today. A young girl found dead just days after she was reported missing. The 13-year-old Nicole Madison Lovell. She survived cancer. She survived a liver transplant. She even endured school bullying.

But the young victim could not escape the hands of her murderer. Today police say Nicole was stabbed to death and these two Virginia Tech students are now suspects.

The male student was charged with murder and felony abduction of Nicole. The female, charged as an accessory.

Let's bring in CNN correspondent, Martin Savidge. Martin, I know there's no satisfying answer for this, but why? What could the motive possibly have been?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't know. You know, we have this case where you have two promising college students, this young girl who is just starting life, and how did it turn the way it did? The authorities today revealed for the first time how the victim died. We still don't know why.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her favorite color was blue.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Her mother, overcome with grief, as she remembered a daughter now gone.

TAMMY WEEKS, DAUGHTER MURDERED: Nicole touched many people throughout her short life.

SAVIDGE: Local police in Blacksburg, Virginia still working diligently to piece together the final hours of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell's life.

MARY PETTITT, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, VA COMMONWEALTH'S ATTORNEY: A very preliminary determination of the cause of death is stabbing.

SAVIDGE: The seventh grader's body was found on Saturday, after being missing for several days. Police now say she was killed the same day she went missing from her home near Virginia Tech University.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We pray right now for Nicole's entire family.

SAVIDGE: As for who is responsible, police are pointing to two promising engineering students at the school. Investigators are searching this lake near Lovell's home for more clues. But 18-year- old freshman David Eisenhauer arrested before a body had even been found.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Constantly striving to better myself.

SAVIDGE: He is an accomplished athlete once profiled by CNN affiliate, WMAR. Now he is charged with first-degree murder and abduction. According to the investigation, he got help from 19-year- old Natalie Keepers, a former NASA intern, now charged with helping to dispose of Lovell's body.

PETTITT: Natalie Keepers, 19, of Laurel, Maryland, and Blacksburg, Virginia, will be charged today with being an accessory before the fact. In addition, she remains charged with being an accessory after the fact.

SAVIDGE: Police say tips and leads from social media led them to arrest Eisenhower, adding that he and Lovell knew each other and that the freshman, quote, "used the relationship to his advantage," unquote.

Both of the teens' lawyers have declined to speak to CNN. According to his arrest warrant, Eisenhower told investigators the truth can set me free.


SAVIDGE: Funeral services planned for Nicole, it will take place on Thursday -- Jake.

TAPPER: Martin, officials haven't given detailed explanations yet. Do you think or have you any indication that social media, internet, may have played a role here?

SAVIDGE: Certainly a lot of uncovering work that CNN has been doing suggests the victim did have a significant footprint on social media, but what teenager doesn't? So did the suspects in this case. Where was the link? Authorities won't say. We don't know. There is a cautionary tale, though, for many parents to learn from here.

TAPPER: Just a heartbreaking story. Martin Savidge, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jaketapper. You can tweet the show @theleadcnn. That's it for THE LEAD today. I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He's in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, new momentum, Ted Cruz finishes first in Iowa. Marco Rubio charges into third --