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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
CNN Goes Underground Through Maze Of ISIS Tunnels; South Korea: Kim Jong Un Has Nuclear Warhead. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired April 6, 2016 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:32:27] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Senator Bernie Sanders had a big victory last night in Wisconsin, so now what? The senator said his victory was proof -- quote -- "There is nothing that we cannot accomplish."
But pollsters and strategists continue to say the one thing Sanders cannot do is actually win the Democratic nomination before the convention, barring, as one pundit said, an act of God or the FBI.
Joining me now, Democratic Congresswoman from Hawaii Tulsi Gabbard.
REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII: Aloha, Jake.
TAPPER: So, Congresswoman, David Plouffe, one of the hands that steered the Obama presidency, candidacy, then presidency twice, gave his take on the Democratic race, writing -- quote -- "I believe Hillary Clinton has zero chance of not being the Democratic nominee."
Why is he wrong? How is Sanders going to become the nominee?
GABBARD: First of all, we live in a democracy, and it's been great to see how in the last seven of the last eight contests that have taken place, Bernie Sanders has won those contests and won them by significant margins.
To me, it just shows the American people are responding to his message, the message that he should continue to carry out to people about taking government out of the hands of the very powerful, the very wealthy and special interests, and putting it back into the hands of the people, this message of ending these interventionist regime change unnecessary wars, this message of breaking up the big banks on Wall Street and ending those risky, gambling measures that have been really carrying such a heavy toll on the American people, that the American people have paid so much for and we have got to prevent from make sure from happening again.
TAPPER: I want you to listen to something that Hillary Clinton said earlier today in response to Senator Sanders' appearance before "The New York Daily News" editorial board, which a lot of critics have said suggests a certain lack of depth in terms of even Sanders' highest- priority policies. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think he hadn't done his homework and he had been talking for more than a year about doing things that he obviously hadn't really studied or understood.
And that does raise a lot of questions. Really, what it goes to is for voters to ask themselves, can he deliver what he's talking about? Can he really help people?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Your response?
GABBARD: Look, Bernie Sanders has been very clear in laying out his vision for this country. He's been really opening his heart to the American people, laying out his heart as a servant's heart and where he'd like to go.
And specifically with regards to the Wall Street banks, he's detailed exactly what was that cause to the 2008 crash that cost our country over $22 trillion, caused American people by the millions to lose their homes and to lose their life savings.
He has pointed specifically to exact steps he would take, a core of which is a point of disagreement between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, and that is the Glass-Steagall Act, which would essentially separate those risky investment banking practices from the commercial day-to-day banking that consumers rely upon in their everyday lives.
GABBARD: He has supported and promised to implement this 21st century Glass-Steagall, something that Elizabeth Warren and John McCain have co-sponsored in the Senate, something that I have co-sponsored to the House, and that is core and central to making sure that these banks that are even bigger today than they were prior to the 2008 crash are no longer allowed to pit their risky practices on the backs of the American people.
But, Congresswoman, I guess the question is -- is the lack of detail that he was able to speak to in that "Daily News" editorial board. One of the issues Hillary Clinton is hammering Sanders on now is breaking up the big banks, as you know, and for not doing the diligence on how he would actually achieve that.
Now, the man who helmed the Council of Economic Advisers during President Obama's first term, Austan Goolsbee, chimed in too, tweeting that -- quote -- "If main policy is break up banks and regulate Wall Street, how can you not know what's legal or what regulators do? Sanders' interview is disturbing." GABBARD: I think that those criticisms frankly are ridiculous, because we elect a president based on the vision they lay out and their commitment to carry out that vision.
There's two main things that a president will need. One is the commitment to carry out the vision that they have laid out and that the American people entrust in them with that responsibility, and the second is to have the tools and the abilities to work with others and the good judgment to be able to carry out that vision.
I would challenge any candidate running for president to say that they know the exact and specific detail of every single piece of legislation that they want to get passed, every single treaty, every single agreement with other countries or other countries' leaders.
We live in a democracy, not a dictatorship. So, Bernie Sanders has laid out clearly his vision, generally the way that he plans to carry out that vision, knowing that he's going to have to work with others to be able to make that happen.
TAPPER: All right, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, aloha, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
GABBARD: Aloha, Jake, thanks.
TAPPER: Joining me now, senior adviser for communications, political outreach, and senior spokesperson for the Clinton campaign Karen Finney.
Karen, thanks so much for joining us.
You heard Congresswoman Gabbard just now. Any response?
KAREN FINNEY, SENIOR ADVISER, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Yes. Well, sure.
All due respect to the congresswoman, look, no one is questioning Senator Sanders' commitment to the issues or passion for these issues, but let's just take, for example, when we talk about Wall Street reform and why the details actually matter.
When you look at the plan that Secretary Clinton has put forward, and a number of outside, independent analysts has pointed this out, she talks not just about here's what we need to do, but here is how we need to do it.
And one is the specifics she talks about is the shadow banking system and going after more consistently all of the various ways that there is still risk in the system. So I think it is a fair criticism when asked the question to Senator Sanders how would you break up the banks, what is your not -- just your vision, but what is your plan, I think people want to know that our leaders, they have vision, they have passion, they have commitment, but they also have a plan and a degree of understanding about the various factors that would go into something like breaking up the banks. TAPPER: That's fair enough, but what would you say to the Sanders
campaign officials who would say his vision is more important than your details because Secretary Clinton has such close ties to Wall Street, whether it's the hundreds of thousands of dollars she was paid by Goldman Sachs or the donations she continues to get? How would you respond to that?
FINNEY: Well, I would say that's a very convenient attack and they have made it many times, and yet, A, she's the person who many outside independent analysts have said has the toughest plan and again goes after things like systemic risk, which Senator Sanders doesn't.
And, B, they have never once been able to point to any actual proof to suggest -- to support their allegation suggesting that somehow Secretary Clinton is beholden to Wall Street. And, C, I would remind people that she actually went to Wall Street in 2007, when she was a senator, and was calling them out for what they were doing.
So -- and, by the way, you have got hedge funds running ads against Secretary Clinton, and I would say they're doing that because they're afraid of the idea that she would actually become president and they know that this is a woman who, and particularly here in New York, let me tell you something -- folks in New York know that when Hillary Clinton says she's going to do something, she gets it done and she delivers results.
So, I'm assuming that's why they're running ads against her. And, again, it's an unsubstantiated sort of allegation from the Sanders campaign and I understand why they want to make it.
TAPPER: So your campaign and Secretary Clinton are being more aggressive against Senator Sanders as this campaign has continued.
Ed Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania, big Clinton supporter, earlier today just said -- quote -- "I think the Clinton campaign should turn down the rhetoric because we're going to need a large percentage of those Bernie Sanders voters to be for Secretary Clinton in November."
Are you at all concerned when a supporter as steadfast and stalwart as Ed Rendell is saying, hey, tone it down? Are you at all second- guessing?
FINNEY: You know, I am actually more concerned when the campaign manager, Senator Sanders' campaign manager, knowing the facts about the math and the reality of the calendar, would accuse Secretary Clinton of being too ambitious.
I always thought that was a good thing in someone who would be running for president, that that we want a level of ambition. I'm frankly more concerned about that. Some of the things -- also, remember, it was just two weeks ago we read that it was Senator Sanders campaign that was poll-testing various lines of attack against Secretary Clinton. She was asked today questions about that "Daily News" editorial board
meeting and she responded to those questions. And I think questions, for example, about Senator Sanders' commitment to the Democratic Party were raised in an interview that he did last week on a different network with Rachel Maddow, who asked about supporting down-ballot candidates and raising money for others in the Democratic Party, which Hillary Clinton is the only candidate right now who is raising money both for state parties and as well as for the DNC.
And I will tell you why that's important and why I think that's an important distinction. I was just in West Virginia over the weekend, and there are a lot of Democrats down there who want help. They want to turn that state blue. And part of being the leader of the party is understanding you have got to help support down-ballot races.
And a place like Wisconsin, you know, that state party needs the help if we're going to defeat Scott Walker.
TAPPER: All right, Karen Finney from the Clinton campaign, thanks so much. Appreciate your time.
FINNEY: Thank you.
TAPPER: This programming note: Next Thursday, on the CNN debate stage, it's Bernie from Brooklyn vs. the former New York senator, Clinton against Sanders just days ahead of the Empire State primary. Wolf Blitzer, also from New York, a Buffalo boy, he will moderate it. You will not want to miss the New York showdown.
The White House is so concerned about the Zika virus, they are not waiting for Congress to approve funding to fight it here in the U.S. Where are they going to get the money from? That's coming up.
CNN gets a rare and dangerous look at the front lines in the fight to regain control of Iraq's second largest city, wresting it from ISIS.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Topping our World Lead today, President Obama weighing options to ramp up the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. This coming as CNN gets a rare front line look at the desperate battle to retake the strategic strong hold of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, from the hands of ISIS terrorists.
CNN senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon, embedded with the Iraqi army and filed this report. A word of caution, some of the images in this story are graphic.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bursts of gunfire and artillery explosions. A constant reminder that the enemy, ISIS, is relentlessly probing for vulnerabilities in the Iraqi army's defenses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): ISIS and especially now, we are on the perimeter of what is their so-called caliphate. They are using waves of suicide bombers backed by fighters.
DAMON: Coalition air strikes leveled this building ISIS militants had snuck into the night before we arrived. The hillside is strewn with the bloated bodies of dead ISIS fighters. One of them looks particularly young, a teenager, the Iraqis say.
General (inaudible) men only recently recaptured this village and a handful of others. The first tentative steps in the battle for Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, that humiliatingly fell to ISIS after Iraqi security forces abandoned their positions around two years ago.
These are men retrained under new command, forces that will repeatedly be put to the test. Will they hold this ground and fight or again flee? Key, of course, to the equation is U.S. support.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): For us, we have enough ground forces. The most important thing is to see ongoing U.S. backing with the air support, advisers and logistical support.
DAMON (on camera): But not boots on the ground?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's not an urgent thing for us right now, boots on the ground. We can liberate our lands.
DAMON (voice-over): ISIS has had plenty of time to fortify its defenses in Mosul and here, still some 45 kilometers or 30 miles away from the main battleground. Deep in one of the hills, a labyrinth.
(on camera): This is not just a tunnel complex, it's actually a tunnel and sleeping quarters complex that has been dug well underground.
(voice-over): Winding passages that veer off in multiple directions. This one leads to a small opening, for oxygen circulation we are told.
[16:50:05]And this is just the start of the impending bloody battle to try to liberate Mosul, one that will be a defining chapter in this nation's history and beyond.
DAMON: And, Jake, shortly after the Iraqi army captured the village you just saw in that report, they tried to advance on another one, an operation that initially seemed like it was going to be a success.
But despite the fact that they had fairly intense coalition air support, it ended in failure with senior Iraqi commanders telling us right now that in the province along these various different front lines, the Iraqi army is holding and what is being described as a defensive position as they wait for reinforcements to arrive.
TAPPER: Arwa Damon live for us in Iraq. Amazing reporting for us, Arwa, thanks so much. Please stay safe.
U.S. military bases could be in striking distance of a new North Korea nuclear threat. Details on that chilling warning, straight ahead.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. In our Money Lead today, the White House warning this afternoon significantly more of the United States than first thought could now be at risk for the Zika virus as the mosquito season quickly approaches.
The Obama administration wants federal, local and state governments to be prepared for more Zika virus outbreaks, and it's not waiting for Congress to act.
Back in February the White House asked Congress to approve $1.9 billion in emergency funding to combat the virus that has been linked to birth defects but that plan has gone nowhere.
So now instead of waiting for the funding approval, the White House says it will take $589 million that had been designated to fight Ebola and instead use that money on mosquito control, research and tracking the spread of Zika.
All in hopes of preventing more cases. White House officials say the redirected money will not replace the pending request to Congress.
Back to our World Lead, a chilling warning today. North Korea now has the ability to mount a nuclear warhead on a midrange missile. That concerning claim coming from Pyongyang's neighbor and likely target, South Korea.
If true, U.S. military installations in Japan and South Korea would be within striking distance. Let's get right to CNN's chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.
Jim, is there any evidence to suggest that Kim Jong-Un's regime has actually mounted a nuclear warhead?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The administration position in short is no. U.S. officials note there are many steps to being truly nuclear capable, miniaturizing is just one of them.
There are some, however, in the U.S. intelligence community who do now assess that North Korea probably does have at least an untested nuclear capability.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): This is the North Korean midrange missile, says South Korea, now capable of carrying a nuclear weapon. South Korean intelligence including that Pyongyang's ballistic missile can deliver a one-ton warhead as far as 1200 miles, putting South Korea, Japan and U.S. military bases in Asia within reach of a nuclear strike.
North Korea's dictator, Kim Jong-Un is already celebrating, posing f pictures near what North Korea claims to be the warhead. U.S. intelligence has yet to reach the same conclusion, but U.S. officials say they must assume that Pyongyang has at least an untested capability to miniaturize and launch a nuclear weapon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is also committed to developing a long-range nuclear armed missile that's capable of posing a direct threat to the United States.
SCIUTTO: Some nuclear analysts share South Korea's more dire assessment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been very skeptical about North Korea's capabilities, but the evidence is mounting. They probably have a nuclear warhead that can fit on a missile that can hit South Korea or Japan.
SCIUTTO: South Korea's assessment now shared in some U.S. intelligence circles follows a series of successful tests by Pyongyang, beginning with an underground nuclear test in January and followed by four missile tests, including a space launch believed to be a step toward an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the U.S.
Recent satellite images also show suspicious activity at North Korea's nuclear facility that is used to produce plutonium to build nuclear weapons. In response, the U.N., the U.S. and China have all recently imposed harsh new economic sanctions on North Korea.
And the U.S. recently flew a nuclear capable B-52 near North Korean airspace and sailed a U.S. aircraft carrier near its waters. North Korea has continued to make progress towards becoming a nuclear power.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: U.S. policy has failed. We have not stopped them. We've tried ignoring them, we've tried sanctioning them. It doesn't work.
SCIUTTO: Defense officials say that the U.S. has already taken several steps to safeguard the U.S. and its allies from a North Korean nuclear attack. This includes the boosting the number of ground-based interceptors, but there is a new missile defense system that's supposed to go to South Korea, I'm told that's still months away.
TAPPER: All right, Jim Sciutto, thanks so much. Before we go, today's Pop Culture Lead, tributes are pouring in for a country legend.
TAPPER: Merle Haggard died today on his 79th birthday. Haggard made more than three dozen number one country hits. Haggard's agent told CNN the singer died of pneumonia complications at his home in Northern California. Rest in peace.
That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer who is next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.