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Super Tuesday Results And Analysis; Delta Force Commandos Capture ISIS Operative; Possible Piece Of Doomed Plane Found. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 2, 2016 - 16:30   ET


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I would say that, because here's the thing: we've been told repeatedly that Donald Trump has a ceiling. At first, it was 30 percent. Then it was 35, then 40 percent. And then all of a sudden it's edging on 50 percent.

Because we saw the CNN poll, the national poll come out just a few days ago showing Donald Trump commanding 49 percent of GOP support in a field of five people. The ceiling keeps getting raised and raised, and along with that we see the turn out, as you mentioned, greater in every state with the exception of Vermont.


I mean, this -- these are record turnouts. And I have to think that Donald Trump is driving that, when you couple the turnout with the poll numbers that we're seeing.

TAPPER: Mary Katharine, I want to play for you an interesting moment from last night's speech by Donald Trump.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going get along great with Congress. OK? Paul Ryan, I don't know him well, but I'm sure I am going to get along great with him. And if I don't, he is going to have to pay a big price, OK?


TAPPER: A big price.


TAPPER: I don't know. I'm asking you.

HAM: It's like casually authoritarian dictates from Trump is one of the things that many conservative activists say, this is not the guy I want leading the federal government, because I'm concerned about the powers of the federal government.

How do I know that this unpredictable man, with an ideology I'm not familiar with, is not going to just punish people left and right? He said that First Amendment, he's not a huge fan of that. He would up libel -- or ease libel restraints on free press and people who criticize him. These things are real concerns about the basis of America and what we believe.

TAPPER: Neera, Donald Trump's argument -- I asked him a couple of weeks ago about minorities and trying to appeal to minorities who it's anticipated will be 30 percent of the electorate this November.

And he said in addition to the fact he would win minority voters, not win them, but he would win enough of them, he said that he was going to bring in more people in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania and Ohio, New York.

Are you, as a Clinton supporter, at all concerned about his ability to bring white, largely working-class voters maybe who would voted Democratic in the past to the polls to vote for him?

NEERA TANDEN, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: Yes, I think he could have the potential to polarize on both sides.

We're actually seeing record Latino voter registration early in the race right now. That's surprising to a lot of folks. He's bringing a lot of folks into these primaries. We should recognize that before. It's true.

We have to say, though, that people who perform in -- who come out in a primary is very different from a general election. Even on the Republican side, it's still a fraction of what a general election will look like.

I think he will polarize. Also, upper-income women, white women who voted for Romney in the past election will reconsider their choices in a different way. And I think, you know, I think it's amazing we're discussing Donald Trump in a serious nature on March 2. But, you know, the chasm we have see in the Republican Party is definitely going to have effects on both sides.

TAPPER: All right, Neera, Mary Katharine, Kayleigh, thank you so much. Great stuff, as always.

It could be the biggest decision on the Supreme Court on abortion since Roe vs. Wade. But without Justice Antonin Scalia there, is there a chance the Supreme Court ruling on the Texas abortion law could end in a tie? And what would that mean coming up next?



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In our national lead, the Supreme Court is taking up what could end up being the most significant abortion-related case in decades, according to legal analysts. With the death of Antonin Scalia, the eight remaining justices will consider a Texas law that regulates local hospitals and clinics that perform abortions. Supporters argue the law is meant to protect women's health.

Opponents say it will shut down all but 10 abortion clinics in the entire state of Texas. They say that's the point of the law to begin with.

Let's bring in CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown.

Pam, what is on the line here? Is it focused exclusively on the Texas law? Or are there national implications?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: There are certainly national implications.

The oral argument today centered around the Texas law. But depending on how the court rules, it could impact more than a dozen states that have laws with similar controversial provisions, and because the stakes are so high you have vociferous crowds out here in front of the Supreme Court early this morning making their voices heard on both sides of the issue.

And the stakes are particularly high with the death of Antonin Scalia.


BROWN (voice-over): Outside the Supreme Court, demonstrators made their voices heard on the most significant abortion case in more than two decades. Inside, with Justice Antonin Scalia's seat still draped in black, the eight justices seemed divided on the Texas abortion law that has two controversial provisions, requiring doctors at abortion clinics to get admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and clinics to upgrade their facilities to hospital-like standards.

Opponents say these onerous requirements are a veiled attempt to put abortion clinics out of business, but supporters say the law makes it safer for women to get abortions. The three women on the bench, joined by Justice Stephen Breyer, hammered the state's lawyer about whether the law is medical necessary and places an undue burden on women.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said -- quote -- "The focus must be on the ones who are burdened. This is not a problem for the women who have means to travel."

Candace Russell says the law has created such long waits at clinics, she had to fly to California to get her abortion.

CANDACE RUSSELL, OPPONENT: Getting on a plane and flying 1,500 miles away is just not an option for many, many of the women in our state.

BROWN: But Texas says the requirements are necessary and the majority of the women in the state will have access to an abortion clinic within 150 miles.

ANNA PAPROCKI, AMERICANS UNITED FOR LIFE: It's a commonsense health and safety standards that are being challenged by the abortion industry because, you know, they put profits ahead of health and safety.

BROWN: Before the law, there were about 40 abortion clinics in Texas. Opponents say the law will cause 75 percent of them to shut down. But the conservative justices seemed skeptical the law was to blame for the closures. All eyes were on Justice Kennedy, who seemed careful not to tip his hand.

STEVE VLADECK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The four liberals seemed quite intent on striking down the law. The three other conservatives seemed willing to uphold it. And so Justice Kennedy really is the swing. He seemed skeptical of both sides. And obviously his vote is critical.



BROWN: It was tough to tell which way Justice Kennedy was leaning, but at one point he suggested sending the case back down to the lower court so that more evidence could be presented about the clinic closures.

If there is a 4-4 tie, that could mean the lower court's ruling will stand and this Texas law will be upheld -- Jake.

TAPPER: Pamela Brown at the Supreme Court, thanks so much.

To discuss more on what is at stake in this Texas abortion case, let's bring in CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, today, lawyers for both sides make their cases, answered questions from the justices. What are your takeaways from today?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It was my first time in the court since Justice Scalia died.

It's a very different place. The vibe is different. Justice Scalia was such a dominant presence in that courtroom. And the four liberals sounded pretty cocky to me.

TAPPER: Really?

TOOBIN: They sounded like, you know what, we got four votes here. We may have Anthony Kennedy. You only have four votes tops anymore.

Justice Sotomayor talked over the chief justice a couple times. They were really feeling their oats. And that doesn't mean they're going to win this case, but I think it's a sign that they feel history is tending their way.

TAPPER: The people who wrote this law in Texas, how much were they motivated in terms of their stated motivations, not suspicions, but how much were their stated motivations because they thought these clinics were not up to par, not up to snuff in terms of standards and code, and how much was it that they think abortion is the taking of life and they just want to reduce it as much as possible?

TOOBIN: There's plenty of evidence for both.

But you have put your finger on what the case was really about. What the liberal justices kept pushing the Texas solicitor general, they kept saying, why abortion? Why is this regulation only in effect for abortion, when liposuction, colonoscopies are more dangerous, but they don't have these sorts of regulations in terms of how they are conducted?

And the solicitor general said, look, Texas is allowed to make its own rules as long as the intention is good, as long as it's not an undue burden on abortion. That's the key phrase. We think it's legitimate.

But that issue of whether this was simply a garbed -- a disguised attempt simply to outlaw abortion, that's what this whole case was about.

TAPPER: Interesting.

You heard Pamela talking about if the court decides on a ruling and it's 4-4, then the lower court ruling is upheld, which means the law would be upheld. Is that the only repercussion of a 4-4 decision or would that have ramifications beyond in terms of the politics of that vacancy?

TOOBIN: Well, that's not an only. That's a big deal, because that would mean Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, states that are interested in restricting abortion would be allowed to do it.


TOOBIN: There are -- millions of women and men would be affected by that. But it would not set a national precedent. And it would allow a later challenge to the same types of law when there's a full complement of nine justices.

TAPPER: Another big issue of course is the Supreme Court vacancy.

CNN has confirmed that the White House is now considering Judge Jane Kelly. She currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit -- for a possible nomination to the Supreme Court.

What can you tell us about her?

TOOBIN: She is 51 years old. She is a former public defender, a very respected criminal defense lawyer for poor people in the state of Iowa.

There's never been a full-time public defender on the Supreme Court. when she was nominated by President Obama, she was confirmed overwhelmingly. And, in particular, she was supported by Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, who is, of course, now the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

He has vowed to block all nominees. No hearings. It would certainly put him in an embarrassing position to block someone from his home state that he has vouched for. She's also a Harvard Law School classmate of the president's. I don't think they were friends or anything. But they may have known each other.

But I don't see how her nomination would get the Republicans to stop their blockade. There's no sign.

TAPPER: Yes. They have already said they would vote against. They wouldn't consider a Republican governor.

TOOBIN: Exactly.

So I think the question about this nomination is, you know, is it mostly just political theater? Or is there anyone with a realistic chance of being nominated, to be confirmed?


TAPPER: Yes. Jeffrey Toobin, thank you so much, as always.

An ISIS operative captured by American commandos now is being questioned -- why his capture and interrogation could be key in the fight against ISIS.

Then, a major discovery washing up onshore -- why this particular piece of debris could be important to finally bringing some closure to the family members who lost loved ones when that flight disappeared.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Topping our World Lead today, the Pentagon claiming a victory in the fight against ISIS in Iraq. Delta Force Commandos recently captured someone the United States considers to be a significant ISIS operative the Pentagon says.

The mission part of a dramatic escalation in the American-led effort to decimate ISIS leadership and gather more intelligence on the inner workings of the terrorist group.

Let's get right to CNN's Barbara Starr. She is live at the Pentagon for us. Barbara, what do we know about this captive and how the operation went down?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: This is somebody, Jake, that they had been watching. They believed from the beginning he had information they urgently wanted. They sent their best to go get him.


STARR (voice-over): U.S. special operations forces have secretly held an ISIS operative in Iraq for days after capturing him on a raid. The Pentagon's new targeting force commandos with orders to capture or kill top ISIS personnel carrying it out.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: At this point, I can't discuss the details of any missions particularly when it comes to risking operational security. [16:50:03]STARR: U.S. officials tell CNN additional operations are in the works. The man whose identity has not been disclosed is being held in Erbil, in Northern Iraq. The mission to get him led by the Army's elite, Delta Force.

He is talking to U.S. interrogators, officials say, and has unique information about ISIS personnel and networks, but officials will not reveal whether the interrogation has yielded specific intelligence about ISIS operations or attack plots.

The head of U.S. military intelligence choice his words carefully describing operations on the ground.

LT. GENERAL VINCENT STEWART, DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY DIRECTOR: You may have noticed an uptick in special operations intended to capture, interrogate, and gather materials that will give us greater insights into the network.

STARR: The new effort puts the military back into the business of holding and interrogating suspected terrorists. U.S. officials say there will be no water boarding or so-called enhanced interrogation and no detainees will be sent to Guantanamo Bay. The plan, instead, is to turn them over to the Iraqis eventually.

EARNEST: Any detention of ISIL leaders in Iraq would be short term and coordinated with Iraqi authorities.


STARR: So this person according to U.S. officials had skills and intent that deeply worried the United States. But officials right now will not say what those skills and intent were all about -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr live for us at the Pentagon, thanks so much.

Could it be the piece of the puzzle that provides answers finally to those hundreds of families whose loved ones died when their plane vanished without a trace? The new piece of debris that might be from MH370. Back after this quick break.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In our World Lead today, a mysterious object washes ashore on the coast of Mozambique in Africa, not far, relatively speaking from the search area focusing on the biggest aviation mystery in world history.

It could be a piece of wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which has you may recall vanished nearly two years ago with 239 people on board. So far the only confirmed piece from the jet is a small part of a wing found until the Indian Ocean last July.

Let's bring in CNN aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh. Rene, what exactly is this new piece of wreckage?

RENE MARSH, CNN GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, I just got off the phone with the man who actually found this wreckage. He said it was light enough for it to float. It is believed to be part of the plane's tail. Specifically this part of the tail.

This is potentially a fresh new clue for investigators in what is the greatest, greatest mystery of our time. But is it enough to get answers about how and why this passenger plane fell out of the sky?


MARSH (voice-over): New images tonight of debris found along the southern shore of Mozambique. A potential clue for crash investigators looking into the mysterious disappearance of MH 370. A source tells CNN it appears to be that of a Boeing 777. The same type of aircraft as the missing plane.

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: They'll take it apart and see if there are any serial numbers on it. They'll be able to confirm whether it's from the plane or not.

MARSH: The debris appears to be a part of the plane's horizontal stabilizer, a piece of the tail that helps control the motion of the plane's nose. American tourist, Blaine Alan Gibson, says he made the discovery.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: The local people told me that stuff tend to wash ashore there from the Indian Ocean.

MARSH: The words written on one side. It also appears to be made of fiberglass, a material often used on aircraft.

(on camera): You don't see any marine life. No barnacles on the piece, it's almost two years.

GOELZ: We don't know whether it was underwater. Whether it was floating the entire two years.

MARSH (voice-over): It could be the first discovery since July when a piece of a Boeing 777 washed up about 1600 nautical miles away near Reunion Island. Investigators determined that piece called a flapiron was indeed from MH370. As for the new debris found, Malaysia's transport minister tweeted, there is a, quote, "high possibility debris found in Mozambique belongs to a B777."

GOELZ: There's no other 777s that have lost this specific part in that area of the world.

MARSH: Aviation experts agree if the newly found debris does belong to MH370, it may not make it any easier for searchers to find the doomed plane nor the 239 people on board.


MARSH: We do want to stress there is no confirmation this piece is from the missing plane at this point. That said, the tough reality for families of those on board is that they may never get all of the answers, Jake. We know that they say that the search is supposed to wrap up this summer.

TAPPER: All right, Rene Marsh, good to have you here. Thank you so much.

Astronaut Scott Kelly just completed something that no other American has ever done. He's back on earth after living 340 days in space. Kelly landed last night in Kazakhstan with two Russian cosmonauts.

Kelly documented his journey in 1,000 tweeted photos. One of the most stunning a sunset over Norway on his way home. NASA captured a good picture of Kelly's return to earth. That is his spacecraft just over the clouds.

President Obama also tweeted Kelly congratulations saying, quote, "Welcome back to earth. Your year in space is vital to the future of American space travel. Hope gravity isn't a drag."

He's now headed to Houston for physical and scientific tests and getting his body re-acclimated to gravity on earth.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.