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North Korea Fears; Murder Mystery; Stopping Trump; Clinton Looks to General Election, Ignores Sanders in Speeches; Eight Family Members Killed "Execution Style". Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 25, 2016 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Deal -making afoot to try to hurt the author of "The Art of the Deal."

THE LEAD starts right now.

Senator Ted Cruz and Governor John Kasich forming a tag team to deny Donald Trump, but is all this wheeling and dealing just proving Trump's point?

An intense manhunt. Methodical cold-blooded killings, eight people executed, shot in the head in four different homes, could marijuana lead us to the motive?

Plus, threat from below, North Korea firing a missile from a sub, and threatening to test another nuke -- why this launch could be Kim Jong- un's most frightening yet.

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

At long last, factions of the Republican Party are uniting. Well, at least two of the presidential candidates say they are. In a brazen act of political calculation, Senator Ted Cruz and Governor John Kasich are announcing that they are strategizing together, trying to block Donald Trump from racking up enough delegates to win outright before the convention.

Kasich's team says they will leave Indiana to Cruz. Cruz's camp says it will clear a path for Kasich in Oregon and New Mexico. Trump calls it the weak, desperate colluding of politicians as usual, while already today there are some signs that this new partnership could easily fray.

Despite the deal, Kasich saying that Indiana voters still ought to support him.

CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is live for us from Westchester, Pennsylvania, where Trump is expected to speak any minute.

Jim, let's not forget Trump is expected to perform very well, when five Northeastern states vote tomorrow. JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake.

He's in Pennsylvania right now. He just got on stage behind me. And Donald Trump, Jake, is dismissing this deal cut by Ted Cruz and John Kasich as an act of desperation.

But the stop Trump forces are looking at the numbers and arguing this deal actually might work.


ACOSTA (voice-over): On the new political marriage of convenience formed by his two remaining rivals to stop his campaign, Donald Trump accused Ted Cruz and John Kasich of being divorced from reality.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It shows that they are just getting killed.

ACOSTA: Leading in all the polls to sweep in the next round of states up for grabs tomorrow, Trump now smells blood, tweeting about the Cruz-Kasich deal as proof. "They are unable to beat me on their own, so they have to team up in a two-on-one." And then hammering the duo again in Rhode Island.

TRUMP: If you collude in business or if you collude in the stock market, they put you in jail. But in politics, because it's a rigged system, because it's a corrupt enterprise, it shows how weak they are, it shows how pathetic they are.

ACOSTA: But Cruz says Trump is sounding off for good reason.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, listen, I don't doubt that Donald Trump is going to scream and yell and curse and insult and probably cry and whine some as well. That has been Donald's pattern.

ACOSTA: Arguing the name of the game is denying Trump the magic number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination, Cruz and Kasich are now dividing up the map, with the Texas senator focusing solely on upcoming Indiana, where he's stronger, while yielding New Mexico and Oregon to the Ohio governor, territory better suiting him.

CRUZ: We decided to allocate our time and energy and resources on the state of Indiana. Governor Kasich decided to allocate his resources elsewhere. I think that made sense from both campaigns.

ACOSTA: The polls indicate Cruz could borrow enough votes from Kasich to deny Trump a victory in Indiana, siphoning delegates away from the real estate tycoon.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Is it colluding? No. Collude, what does that even mean?

ACOSTA: Kasich pushed back on the notion that he's on the ropes.

KASICH: No. I'm not desperate. Are you? Are you desperate? Because I'm not. ACOSTA: But he also seemed to spin his end of the deal with Cruz just

a touch, saying voters can support the candidate of their choice.

KASICH: I'm not going to go tell anybody how to vote. They can -- but, look, this is a matter of resources. And, you know, we are running a national campaign and we want to apply our resources where we think they can be used most effectively.

TRUMP: But I said to myself that's pretty bad. That's pretty bad.

ACOSTA: But the alliance seems to have emboldened Trump, who's come up with new insults for Kasich.

TRUMP: This guy takes a pancake and he is shoving it in his mouth. It's disgusting. Do you want that for your president? I don't think so.


ACOSTA: Now, insults aside, a top official with the never Trump movement said the plan worked up by Cruz and Kasich is long overdue, adding it can actually stop the GOP front-runner.

A top Trump adviser tells me the deal could hurt the campaign in Indiana, but it won't be enough to halt their march for that magic number of 1,237 delegates.

And as you can hear behind me right now, Jake, Donald Trump has just taken the stage here in Westchester, Pennsylvania. No pancake references just yet.


TAPPER: Right. Thanks for keeping us up to speed.

Jim Acosta, thanks so much.

To dig into this extraordinary development, I'm joined by representatives from the Trump and Cruz campaigns.

Trump senior adviser Tana Goertz joins us, and Cruz campaign national chairman Chad Sweet.

Thanks to both of you.

Chad, let me read to you the statement your campaign released last night. "Our campaign will focus its time and resources in Indiana and in turn clear the path for Governor Kasich to compete in Oregon and New Mexico. And we would hope that allies of both campaigns would follow our lead."

Now, the Kasich campaign agreed in a statement, but listen to Governor Kasich this morning.


QUESTION: Who should your supporters vote for in Indiana?

KASICH: Well, I have never told them not to vote for me. They ought to vote for me.


TAPPER: Seems to be a little mixed message there. Kasich is telling people in Indiana, his supporters to vote for him, even though his campaign is saying...

CHAD SWEET, TED CRUZ CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: No, no, so, just to be clear, this is a resource allocation alliance.

So essentially what you see is we're agreeing on where we're going to focus our time and resources. And we're not going to ask Cruz voters out in the West or elsewhere to vote for Governor Kasich either. So this is consistent with the original agreement. And we respect...

TAPPER: It's about spending money.

SWEET: Exactly.

TAPPER: It's not about telling voters to vote for them.


SWEET: Exactly, Jake. Yes.

TAPPER: Tana, Mr. Trump is suggesting that there is something unseemly here, but if the strategy of the Cruz and Kasich campaigns is to force a convention fight, isn't this the most strategic way to do that?


Here's the deal. They're competitors of Donald Trump and they're teaming up to make this unfair. It doesn't make any sense. It's like asking your neighbor to vote for your competitor. I think it's silly. I agree with Mr. Trump, this is wrong.

This is not the way politics is supposed to be done. It's fight your own race. And didn't Governor Kasich get his start in Indiana, 100 miles from Ohio, where he won? Why isn't he taking his campaign there and letting the American people speak? It doesn't make sense to any of us. And I think it will backfire.

SWEET: This just shows that the Trump art of the deal, they should know what the terms are. This is not a voter ask deal. This is a resource allocation deal. What we have done is...


GOERTZ: Right, it's not about the voters.

SWEET: Instead of responding to his own issues and trying to argue his case to the voters, instead, he's taken to calling Governor Kasich names, making fun of how he eats food. It reminds me of what he said about Carly Fiorina's face.

This is not running for third-grade bully of the sandbox. This is about voters choosing the next president of the United States, and I think they see why Donald Trump is not that candidate.

TAPPER: Tana, let me ask you, because we have been hearing a lot about how Mr. Trump is going to try to be more presidential, more professional, in the words of Paul Manafort, but now he's insulting the way that John Kasich eats pancakes?

GOERTZ: Well, here's the deal.

Mr. Trump is different at the rallies. Paul was 100 percent right when he said he's a different person at the rallies. He is talking to his people, the American people, who are going out and voting for Donald J. Trump, not what they're doing for Senator Cruz or Governor Kasich.

The voters are at the rallies, so he has fun, he talks different, his tone is different. When he's in a more serious setting, it's absolutely a different Mr. Trump. But his policies are still the same regardless of what his audience is.

And if he wants to choose to talk about how he eats pancakes, that's his business and his prerogative, but his beliefs and his policies are still 100 percent the same. And these are just two grown men that have to gang up together to try to even win one state. The voters will decide and tomorrow will be a huge day for the Trump campaign. I cannot wait.


SWEET: The voters will decide, so they should -- Trump should not be afraid of this. At the end of the day, he should man up and win the votes. He should man up and win the votes.


GOERTZ: And he will. And he is. He's not afraid.

SWEET: That's the whole point, Jake, is that two-faced Trump goes to the RNC just this last week with his representatives and Paul Manafort says everything they're doing is all for show.


SWEET: And so that's the point that we're trying to make.


GOERTZ: That is not true.


SWEET: Voters are tired of politicians coming and telling them one thing and then turning around and doing another. If his policies are the same, then why won't he release the

transcripts of "The New York Times" interviews...


SWEET: ... security?

GOERTZ: He is. Have you not seen the press releases? This is happening.


SWEET: He's very afraid of what he says behind closed doors.


TAPPER: Tana, I will come to you in a second, but, Chad, I want to ask you a question, because there are reports now that Senator Cruz is vetting presidential candidates, including Carly Fiorina. I think her spokeswoman told "The Weekly Standard" that they are vetting her.

Is it possible that Ted Cruz might announce a running mate in the next few days or in the next few weeks?


SWEET: Any responsible future leader of the free world has to be looking at having a potential successor in a vice president, so the answer as we have confirmed before that he is vetting a number of solid candidates and certainly Ms. Fiorina is absolutely one of them. She's one of the most talented business leaders of modern times.



TAPPER: Tana, let me just give you the last word. What do you make of the fact that Senator Cruz is vetting a possible running mate?

GOERTZ: I think that's putting the cart before the horse.

Mr. Cruz, Senator Cruz is not even in the running, and he should take his open advice that he gave to John Kasich and get out of the race.

TAPPER: All right, Tana Goertz, Chad Sweet, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

SWEET: Thank you.

GOERTZ: Thank you.

TAPPER: Forget Bernie Sanders. Hillary Clinton is already acting like the Democratic nominee and focusing on her Republican opponents. But Sanders is not quite ready to let her pivot to the general election just yet.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back.

More now on our politics lead.

Democratic presidential candidates making their final pushes before another round of Super Tuesday tomorrow. A total of 384 delegates are at stake as voters will cast their ballots in five states, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is gearing up for another rally in Philadelphia after having a couple of other events earlier today, including this one in Youngwood, Pennsylvania, a couple of hours ago.

[16:15:03] Meanwhile, Senator Bernie Sanders will also have a rally in the City of Brotherly Love this evening, but he may have some work cut out for him.

Let's bring in CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar. She's in the great city of Philadelphia.

Clinton is polling ahead of Sanders in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania by 14 points, according to one recent poll. How does Senator Sanders think he's going to do tomorrow?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He and his campaign, Jake, think they're going to pick up a lot of delegates, but they're certainly not declaring victory and it may be telling that Senator Sanders, we are expecting tomorrow, is going to be in West Virginia. So, he is looking ahead even towards this state that won't -- where voters won't be going to the polls for another couple of weeks, even as Sanders and Clinton gear up for dueling rallies here in Philadelphia.


KEILAR (voice-over): On the eve of primaries in five states, Hillary Clinton is taking aim at Donald Trump.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump says wages are too high in America and he doesn't support raising the minimum wage. I have said come out of those towers named for yourself and actually talk to and listen to people.

KEILAR: Clinton ratcheting up her attacks on the GOP runner at a campaign stop in Delaware.

CLINTON: Don't just fly that big jet in and land it, go make a big speech, insult everybody you can think of, then get back on that jet and go back to your country clubhouse in Florida or your penthouse in New York.

KEILAR: She's trying to position herself as the unifying alternative to Trump. Releasing an ad called love and kindness. CLINTON: America is stronger when we are all supporting one another.

KEILAR: But as Clinton looks to the general election, practically ignoring Bernie Sanders in her stump speech, Sanders is fully engaged in his primary battle, hitting Clinton in Connecticut today.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me take a moment to talk about some of the differences between Secretary Clinton and myself. For a start, I am very proud to come before you and tell you I don't have a super PAC.

KEILAR: Trailing considerably in the pledged delegate count, Sanders pushed back on critics who say he can't catch up to Clinton on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."

SANDERS: I think we do have a path to victory. I think we have come a very, very long way in the last year and we're going to fight for every last vote until California and the D.C. primary.

KEILAR: As Clinton faces criticism from Sanders, she's getting consideration from an unlikely place, conservative mega donor and billionaire, Charles Koch. He said Sunday it's possible Clinton could be better than the GOP nominee.

CHARLES KOCH, CHAIRMAN, KOCH INDUSTRIES: We would have to believe her actions would be quite different than her rhetoric, let me put it that way. But on some of the Republican candidates, before we could support them, we'd have to believe their actions would be quite different from the rhetoric we've heard so far.

KEILAR: But Clinton was quick to respond, tweeting, "Not interested in endorsements from people who deny climate science and try to make it harder for people to vote."


KEILAR: Meanwhile, Jake, "The New York Times" is reporting that the veep stakes is already beginning with the Clinton campaign. Campaign officials and advisers to the campaign, "The Times" is reporting, are starting in on a list of about 15 to 20 possible running mates for Hillary Clinton.

Among them current Obama administration secretaries, Julian Castro and Tom Perez, as well as former Virginia Governors Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, along with Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Massachusetts Governor Duval Patrick. So, a sign of how confident the Clinton campaign is that they're going to clinch the nomination here.

TAPPER: All right. Brianna Keilar, thank you.

And don't forget to watch tomorrow night for our Super Tuesday 4 election coverage that starts at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on THE LEAD.

Preplanned executions, that's how police are now describing the murders of eight family members in rural Ohio. And now, new evidence may provide some insight into a possible motive.

Then, marked for death? CNN speaks to a man who says he is on the U.S. kill list and has survived four drone strikes. Is he a terrorist?


[16:23:45] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

The national lead now, a manhunt under way in the execution-style murders of eight family members in rural Ohio. Their bodies found inside four different homes Friday morning in the small town of Piketon, Ohio. That's about 90 miles east of Cincinnati. Each victim of the Rhoden family has methodically shot in the head in what investigators are describing as preplanned executions, the youngest victim just 16 years old, the oldest, just 44.

The killer or killers left three young children at the homes alive, including a newborn just 4 days old. Another huge discovery, sophisticated marijuana growing operations inside three of the four homes, leading investigators to question whether drugs played a role in the motive behind the murders.

CNN's Nick Valencia joins me now live in Piketon, Ohio.

Nick, law enforcement still has no idea at all who might be behind these murders?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If they are any closer to catching whoever did this, they aren't giving us any indication. Whoever did this remains on the run. People here are widely speculating that drugs played a role in the murders.


VALENCIA (voice-over): On the road that leads to the crime scenes, we meet Stan Tumidolsky, the Rhoden's neighbor. He says although he was home at the time of the shootings, he didn't hear anything.

[16:25:03] Most people in this part of rural Pike County prefer to keep to themselves.

(on camera): What does it say about the area, the community?

STAN TUMIDOLSKY, RHODENS' NEIGHBOR: Nothing. We're all good people. This just happened to be a hiccup, that's all. I don't worry about stuff like that.

VALENCIA: While he may not be worried, plenty of people in Piketon are, including a best friend of one of the victims.

MAGGIE OWENS, DANA RHODEN'S BEST FRIEND: I've been telling my kids, you know, just be careful, watch over your shoulder and don't go far and let me know where you're at. I just -- I worry. I worry a lot.

MIKE DEWINE, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Can you imagine if you lived in a small community and someone came in and killed eight members of a family, four different homes.

VALENCIA: Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has tried to comfort the locals, while at the same time keeping the details about the investigation close to his chest. He says for good reason.

DEWINE: You don't want to tell the bad guys everything that you know. You want to keep them guessing. That's pretty much it. So much as I would like to inform everyone about everything, we're going to stay to process and we're going to talk about what we've done, but we're not going to talk about the results.

VALENCIA: Over the weekend, about 100 friends and family of the victims gathered at a nearby church to find comfort.

Phil Fulton is the pastor there.

PHIL FULTON, VICTIMS' PASTOR: I cannot believe how anyone could kill a mother with her 4-day-old baby in her arms. It's -- that's out of my realm of thinking, that anyone could do that, how heartless.

VALENCIA (on camera): From outside appearances, Piketon looks like your typical small town. Nice place to live, nice place to raise a family even.

But you don't have to dig deep to see its dark side. All you have to do is pick up a local newspaper and read the headlines. It was just a couple of years ago that authorities here discovered a major marijuana grow operation with ties to the Mexican drug cartels.

(voice-over): While authorities have not connected the murders to drugs, the discovery of a marijuana grow operation at the victims' residences is only fueling the rumors that the Rhodens were connected to some bad people -- people capable of this.

911 CALLER: There's blood all over the house.


911 CALLER: My brother-in-law is in the bedroom and it looks like someone has beat the hell out of him.


VALENCIA: With the killer or killers on the loose, many in this community are taking added precautions, especially extended members of the Rhoden family. Yesterday at a press conference, a local sheriff issued a startling warning to them: arm yourselves -- Jake.

TAPPER: Nick Valencia, thank you so much.

Also in Ohio today, we learned the city of Cleveland will pay $6 million to the family of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy killed by police. The money settles a lawsuit filed by his family earlier this year.

A nearby surveillance video captured the deadly shooting in November 2014. That day, a 911 caller reported someone in a park waving around what appeared to be a toy gun. Officer trainee Timothy Loehmann shot Rice just two seconds after arriving and getting out of his patrol car.

According to the lawsuit, the family argued dispatchers never told responding officers that the gun was likely a toy gun. It turned out to be a pellet gun. The terms of the settlement acknowledged no fault in Rice's death. Back in December, a grand jury decided not to indict Officer Loehmann. The lead prosecutor called the event the perfect storm of human error, and mistakes in communication, but not a criminal act.

Our buried lead now: Today in Kendall County, Illinois, a lawsuit was filed against the longest serving Republican House speaker in American history, Dennis Hastert. The suit demands more than $1.8 million to compensate for the alleged sexual abuse committed by Hastert years ago when he was a wrestling coach. The civil suit comes as the criminal case against Hastert comes to an end.

On Friday, 41 letters were released testifying to the character of Hastert. Hastert pleaded guilty, as you may recall, to the criminal charge related to his trying to hide $3.5 million in hush money that he agreed to pay this same individual whom he abused when the victim was 14 years old, according to prosecutors. Hastert will be sentenced Wednesday.

And the letters, written by some very powerful people, asked for leniency. They were letters written after Hastert admitted past wrongdoing but before the latest prosecution filing, so the nature of the charges, although not the details, were known before letters were written.

Hastert, quote, "has not disappointed me in any way," wrote former House Majority Tom DeLay. "He is a man of strong faith that guides him. He is a man of great integrity. He doesn't deserve what he is going through. We all have our flaws, but Dennis Hastert has very few."

One of those flaws presumably is no longer prosecutable because of the statute of limitations and that would be Hastert's proclivity, according to prosecutors, to sexually assault boys on the wrestling team that he used to coach. These include, prosecutors say in the last filing, quote, "intentional touching of minor's groin area and genitals or oral sex with a minor", and, quote, "Private one-on-one encounters in an empty locker room and a motel room with minors that violated the special trust between those young boys and their coach."