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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Key ISIS Operative Captured Providing Critical Intel; Idaho Pastor Shooting: Suspect Arrested Outside the White House; American Killed in Israel. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 9, 2016 - 16:30   ET

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


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[16:34:01] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

We have got more in our politics lead now. The fight for the Republican nomination ramping up today, after Donald Trump solidified his lead as the front-runner last night, Ted Cruz still in striking distance after picking up Idaho, and today getting Carly Fiorina's surprise endorsement.

Joining me now is Sam Clovis. He's Donald Trump's national campaign co-chair.

Sam, thank you for being with us once again.

SAM CLOVIS, DONALD TRUMP NATIONAL CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIR: Thanks, Jim. Appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: So, tell us, what's your reaction to Carly Fiorina's endorsement of Ted Cruz?

CLOVIS: Well, I think it's what you would -- I think you would see this. There are people out there that are trying to find a way. I think there's also some motivation, personal motivation behind it.

I think that Mrs. Fiorina ran a reasonable campaign, and I think that there probably is an affinity between her and Senator Cruz. And I -- it probably is a natural endorsement for her.

SCIUTTO: It is likely that Carly Fiorina remembers the comment about her face by Donald Trump, as do many of her women voters.

[16:35:05]

Are you confident that Donald Trump can overcome that and appeal to women voters in the rest of the primaries, but in a general election?

CLOVIS: Well, I think so.

And I think what you really see here is that the people are voting across the United States right now in a series of primaries and caucuses. We have seen record turnout across the board. I think we're looking at like 35 percent -- 35 percent increase in turnout in the primary cycle, which is pretty remarkable. I think that you see, you know, almost 80 percent of the vote going to

people in the Republican Party that were considered outsiders, and I think this is really the American people getting up on their hind legs and telling the establishment that we're not really interested in what you have to say anymore.

SCIUTTO: I have to ask you, watching Donald Trump's victory speech last night, to a lot of folks, it looked a lot more like an infomercial than a political speech.

How is it presidential for a candidate to sell steaks and wine on stage as he's running for the nation's highest office?

CLOVIS: Because he was accused of all of those enterprises that he showed last night were out of business and they didn't exist. And, in fact, they do.

And I think here's the issue. I think one of the -- the number one in this campaign has been, will be and will always be the economy. And I think if you take a look at any person running for the presidency of the United States, there is only one, only one who has created jobs. He's created tens of thousands of jobs.

And that is a manifestation -- what he showed last night is a manifestation of the breadth and depth of his business operations. Standing in his golf club and doing all those things, those are things that tell the American people that this is a man who can get things done.

SCIUTTO: Well, I have to ask you too, as we have another Republican debate on CNN tomorrow night. We heard Donald Trump tell our Chris Cuomo this morning that we should expect, in his words, a nicer, softer, lighter debate.

In light of his tactics, his rhetoric to this point, why make that change now?

CLOVIS: I don't think it will be him that will be making the change. I think the other candidates have figured out that when everybody, you know, goes after each other up on the stage, the American people lose out and it really doesn't benefit anybody.

In fact, there's been no position movement. In fact, I think Marco Rubio is really struggling right now trying to find his footing. I think Ted is essentially stagnating in second place. We seem to be improving and we're stretching our delegate lead. And after next Tuesday, I think it's going to be an insurmountable lead.

And I think that this is what I think is really going on here. The psychology right now going into the next Super Tuesday is -- and I don't think it benefits anyone to get up on that stage and raise their elbows. It really doesn't. I think they really need to get up there and differentiate themselves and make the case going forward why they should be the president of the United States.

SCIUTTO: Sam Clovis, thanks for joining us today. CLOVIS: Well, thank you, Jim. Appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: We will talk again.

Let's talk more about the Republican slugfest with our political panel, CNN political commentator Ana Navarro, and communications director for the anti-Trump Our Principles Pack, Tim Miller.

Tim, you heard Sam Clovis there talking about how no candidate will gain anything by tough rhetoric. A little of the pot calling the kettle back there from the Trump national co-chair?

TIM MILLER, OUR PRINCIPLES PAC: Well, no doubt. Look, Trump has so many vulnerabilities that I wouldn't be surprised that his co-chair wouldn't want people to talk about them.

Just in the last two days, we have seen stories, one, about how Donald Trump had a high roller at one of his casinos who is a racist and so Trump kept black people away from his table. That is jarring. Trump has such a problem with race throughout his history. Another story yesterday talked about all Trump's outsourcing, Trump colognes, Trump umbrellas, Trump body wash, Trump everything.

It's all infomercial and it's all made in China. So the voters need to hear about this and I expect they will tomorrow night, whether the Trump people want it or not.

SCIUTTO: Ana, I want to ask you a little about news. Jeb Bush, we just learned he is going to be meeting with the three non-Trump GOP candidates before CNN's Republican debate tomorrow.

What influence does Jeb Bush hope to have at this stage in this race?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, I'm not sure that it's the influence that he hopes to have. I just think that people who are against Trump, and I know Jeb Bush is against Trump, thinks Trump would be very bad for our party, very bad for our country.

I think his motivation is, how do we stop Trump? I'm not surprised that he's meeting with all three of them. I think that for all of us, we're coming to grips with the idea that any of the three, including Ted Cruz, who was unacceptable to many of us just a few days ago, is a much better option than Donald Trump.

[16:40:11]

I think Jeb Bush wants to add his voice to the anti-Trump movement. I think you're going to see him, you know, maybe take a similar route to Governor Romney. People just -- people are in angst. People are worried about the notion of Donald Trump being our nominee, potentially our president, and feel compelled to speak out.

SCIUTTO: Tim, I have got to ask you, though...

(CROSSTALK) MILLER: Jeb had moral clarity throughout the...

SCIUTTO: But let me ask you about a point, just to respond to what Ana is saying there.

Yes, we have heard those voices among Republicans, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush among them, uncomfortable, to say the least, with a Donald Trump candidacy and lead, but how do they convince donors to keep pouring money down that drain after, well, Jeb Bush's departure, Marco Rubio's performance and that surprise pickup in momentum for Donald Trump last night?

MILLER: Well, look, two things.

One, as Ana was saying, Jeb had moral clarity throughout the campaign about Donald Trump, about how we can't win if you're going to insult the disabled and insult Hispanics.

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: Yes, but he's winning. He's winning.

MILLER: So, this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.

With regards to donors, look, Our Principles PAC, we have had more support over the last week than the PAC had in its entire existence to date for stopping Trump. They saw his vulnerability in Maine, in Kansas, in Idaho. Trump can be beat. And on March 15, we're spending a lot of money educating voters about his record. He's going to be in a lot of these big delegate states.

NAVARRO: Jim, there's been a sea change in the attitude of donors after Super Tuesday. I think a lot of people, a lot of us woke up with very big hangovers that Wednesday after Super Tuesday, and it wasn't from drinking.

It was from the headache that we got at the notion that Donald Trump was likely the nominee, and people are, you know, feeling the need to act. Look, it's a late effort. It should have started a long time ago. It should have started a long time ago by the other candidates, by donors, by anybody who really can't stand the idea of Donald Trump as our president, but it started now.

Better late than never. And I think people feel we have got to put the effort in.

SCIUTTO: Ana and Tim, I'm just going to get a brief answer on a final question before we go. Is Marco Rubio's campaign finished? Ana, you first, then Tim.

NAVARRO: Look, it's not finished until it's finished. OK? It's not -- really, I think March 15 is a litmus test for Marco.

If Marco does not win Florida, at that point, I think we can wake up on Wednesday and say his campaign is finished. If he does win Florida, it's going to be a huge night for him. That being said, he still has no mathematical path to the nomination. So at some point, he's going to have to really reconcile the reality, the mathematical reality with the political reality and search inside his soul.

But I am certain Marco Rubio is in this until March 15 and will give it his all.

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: Marco has a great debate tomorrow night. He's going to have to keep educating voters about Trump and he will be there on the stage and he has -- there's a big opportunity for him tomorrow.

SCIUTTO: All right, optimistic point of view.

Ana Navarro, Tim Miller, thanks very much.

Don't forget about the next Republican debate. It airs on CNN tomorrow night, Jake Tapper moderating from Miami. It all starts at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time.

Arrested throwing things over the White House fence, so how did this man wanted for the shooting of an Idaho pastor fly cross-country with a warrant out for his arrest?

Then, terrifying revelations about the type of attacks that ISIS may be capable of carrying out -- new reports that they manufactured deadly mustard gas.

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[16:47:50] SCIUTTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto, in again for Jake Tapper.

Topping our world lead today, the U.S. ramping up air strikes targeting and destroying major components of ISIS' chemical weapons program. CNN has learned critical intelligence has provided by a key ISIS operative recently captured and now being interrogated by U.S. forces in Iraq.

Let's get right to CNN's Barbara Starr. She is live at the Pentagon.

Barbara, how much do we know about how much this guy has been talking?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, supposedly talking a fair bit. Captured and interrogated by the Pentagon's supposedly secret expeditionary targeting force. This is actually a group of about 200 Special Operations Forces operating in northern Iraq, ready to go into Syria with the goal of capturing key ISIS operatives when they can and interrogating them for intelligence.

They got this guy about three weeks ago. They have been interrogating him ever since. He is said to be by U.S. officials a top official in ISIS' chemical weapons program. They interrogated him for everything he knew and then they began to carry out a series of limited airstrikes, if you will, against ISIS chemical sites, chemical sites associated with mustard agent -- something that ISIS has used in the past in both Iraq and Syria against civilians. The U.S. wanted to get these targets -- not clear yet how much of the chemical capability they really destroyed, Jim.

SCIUTTO: So, Barbara, so another story. What can you tell us about an American plane that went down, hard landing in northern Iraq and there was a rescue of them?

STARR: Well, I think we have some pictures to show everyone. This is a reconnaissance aircraft operated by the U.S. We are told now it was U.S. contractors. No one will say what agency they worked for, that went down in northern Iraq.

You and I might call this a crash landing, but in fact, the Pentagon is calling it, and I quote, an off airport emergency landing. Off airport enough that a number of U.S. military personnel were quickly dispatched to the site to see if a rescue was needed. No reports of injuries in this incident, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Glad to hear they're all safe.

[16:50:01] Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks very much.

In our national lead, bizarre new twists in an already alarming story. The U.S. Secret Service arrested this man, 30-year-old Kyle Odom, after he allegedly threw flash drives over the White House fence last night. Now, it turns out that the same man in custody was already a fugitive, wanted in the shooting of a pastor in Idaho. Despite a felony warrant, Odom managed to board a commercial flight from Boise, Idaho, all the way to here, the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.

I want to bring in CNN justice reporter, Evan Perez.

So, Evan, he had a felony warrant out for him. How does he manage to get on a U.S. commercial flight?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, it appears that this is exposing a hole in our system, Jim. If Kyle Odom were a suspected terrorist, authorities say he would not have within able to board a plane. But Odom managed to fly across the country because he was merely suspected of attempted murder.

On Sunday, Odom allegedly shot a pastor in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Police say that they don't know a motive, but they have uncovered writings in a manifesto showing Odom was obsessed with aliens from Mars who he thought were running the world. On Monday morning, hours after the shooting, Odom flew from Boise to Washington, D.C., without being stopped.

The Transportation Security Administration says it screens passengers against terrorist databases but not criminal databases and the FBI's terrorist screening center operates an elaborate system, including the no-fly list. All of this is designed to thwart terrorists but not regular criminals.

Idaho police say that they put Odom's name in a national criminal database on Sunday night. On Monday, they had also alerted nearby airports, and U.S. capital police, and that's because of materials that Odom left behind list names of members of Congress. FBI agents were on the case and by last night, they believed they had tracked his location somewhere in the D.C. area. That's when they got a call from the Secret Service saying that Odom was arrested outside the White House after he tossed these objects over the fence.

Obviously, now, the FBI and all the authorities involved are very concerned that someone could do this and it's definitely something -- a hole in the system that they are trying to figure out how to fix.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. Thanks very much, Evan Perez, on the story for us.

A veteran graduate of West Point and a business school student. We're learning more about the American tourist who was stabbed to death in Israel as Jerusalem remains on edge following more violence.

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[16:56:31] SCIUTTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Turning now to Israel, in our world lead, where fear is running high after another string of violent and random street attacks. A pair of Palestinian men were shot dead by Israeli police in Jerusalem today after they were spotted with rifles in their car. Police say they suspected the two men were behind an attempted shooting on a bus earlier this morning.

All this as we're learning new details about the American graduate student and U.S. military veteran, Taylor Force, stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist outside Tel Aviv on Tuesday.

CNN's own Oren Lieberman has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OREN LIEBERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty-eight-year-old Taylor Force, a West Point graduate, an Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, killed on a night out in Tel Aviv in a stabbing rampage. Force grew up in Lubbock, Texas, an Eagle Scout and graduate student at Vanderbilt University studying business.

The university says he was in Israel studying global entrepreneurship. Force's death occurring a short distance from where Vice President Joe Biden was in a meeting. Biden's wife and grandchildren eating dinner on the beach near the attack as it was happening.

Biden meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday morning called the attack an act of terror.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My condolences to Taylor's family and to all those victims of attacks yesterday and every day. Let me say in no uncertain terms: the United States of America condemns these acts and condemns the failure to condemn these acts. LIEBERMAN: The vice president not the only American politician to

send condolences. Texas Congressman Randy Neugebauer nominated Force to West Point.

REP. RANDY NEUGEBAUER, TEXAS: Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Force's parents and his family as well. I think one of the things that we know is that the world is a very dangerous place right now, and particularly the Middle East is a very unstable area.

LIEBERMAN: Force left a lasting impression on those around him. His scout master remembers him well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can't put any sense to why somebody would have randomly attack someone like him, you know, because he was a good kid, he was a good guy, he was a good man. They don't know anything about him.

LIEBERMAN: Force was a tourist in Israel learning about the country's high-tech industry. A veteran who survived two wars, killed in a conflict in which he played no part.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIEBERMAN: We've learned that force was an artillery officer, a captain and Vice President Biden said some very powerful words about his passing, Jim. He said his loss is a loss to the entire community, to his family, to his friends and to everyone -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, just a sad loss for him and our thoughts go to his family. Oren Lieberman in Jerusalem -- thank you.

And before we go today, you're looking at live images from the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, where crowds are lining up to pay final respects to former First Lady Nancy Reagan. Public visitation opened to the public just moments ago. Nancy Reagan died last Sunday from heart failure at her Los Angeles home.

Earlier today, people crowded along highway overpasses to catch just a glimpse of the motorcade, moving the 94-year-old's casket. You see some of them there. We just learned the former First Lady Roslyn Carter, the wife of Jimmy Carter, will attend today's funeral. She will join the current First Lady Michelle Obama and former First Lady Hillary Clinton.

Nancy Reagan will be buried at the library right next to her husband, Ronald Reagan.

That is it for THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto, in today for Jake Tapper.

And I turn you now over to Wolf Blitzer, in "THE SITUATION ROOM."