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New Clinton Ad Punches Back Against Previous Trump Gaffes and Mocking; Iraqi Forces Secure Southern Edge of Fallujah; Syria Army Attempting To Retake ISIS Stronghold; NPR Journalist, Interpreter Killed On Assignment; Outrage Over Lenient Sentence In Rape Case. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired June 6, 2016 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Let's stay with politics.

We have a lot to talk about, including a brand-new TV ad debuting right here on THE LEAD. It has big money behind it, $4.5 million just this week. It will air in battleground states Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire. And it comes from Priorities USA Action. That's a super PAC backing Hillary Clinton.

Let's watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remember being in the ultrasound room and finding out that our daughter was going to be born with a disability, spina bifida.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was born 20 weeks later on Valentine's Day, and she is a total blessing in our lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Grace is the happiest child you have ever seen. Despite all of her medical challenges, she brings out the goodness in each person, and that's what we see every day with Grace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I saw Donald Trump mock a disabled person, I was just shocked.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You got to see this guy. Oh, I don't know what I said. Oh, I don't remember.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That reporter he is talking about suffers from a chronic condition that impairs movement of his arms.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The children at Grace's school all know never to mock her, and so for an adult to mock someone with a disability is shocking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I saw Donald Trump mock somebody with a disability, it showed me his soul. It showed me his heart. And I didn't like what I saw.


TAPPER: Just a note to any candidate, campaign, party or super PAC that wants to debut an ad on THE LEAD, an actual TV ad with real money behind it, hit us up. We want to give all sides an equal platform.

Joining me, CNN political commentator Ana Navarro, senior press representative for the Trump campaign Healy Baumgardner, and chief strategist for Priorities USA Action Guy Cecil.

Guy, I will come to you in a second. But I do want to give Healy an opportunity to respond to this ad.

What do you think?

HEALY BAUMGARDNER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENIOR REPRESENTATIVE: Consider the source. Hypocritical. It comes from Hillary. She has respect for human life herself. She is responsible for Benghazi and she can't own up to it.

So, secondly, Mr. Trump never met this reporter. This was taken totally out of context in a way for her to divert attention away from herself and off her behind-closed-doors bad deals. So it's unfortunate.

TAPPER: But you don't think it will work.

But, Guy, let me ask you a question just about the strategy of this ad. You're putting millions of dollars into this ad. Mr. Trump made those remarks in November and denied, as Healy noted, that he was not talking about the reporter in question.

That was November. And then he went on to clock of every other candidate running. Why do you think this is going to be effective?

GUY CECIL, PRIORITIES USA ACTION: Well, I think, first of all, Donald Trump is lying. And everyone knows he's lying, and Donald Trump knows he's lying, because he's a divisive con man.

And the fact of the matter is, the reason we think these ads will work is because we're dealing with a general electorate that is younger and more diverse and national and not just a Republican primary electorate.

And we know that families across the country have reached out to us to express their displeasure over the ad -- over his comments, rather. And we plan on telling that story starting on Wednesday and continuing for the next several weeks.

TAPPER: Ana, I want to ask you, as somebody who doesn't particularly care for either Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton, what did you think of that ad?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It hits particularly close to home. I have a brother named Daniel (ph) Navarro who is 52 years old and has

the mental and motor skills of a 12-month-old. And when I see Donald Trump mocking somebody with a disability, it makes me think of my brother and all the people like him.

I think that it cuts across party lines, because there are so many families in America who love somebody, who live with somebody that has got a disability. And it just cuts across -- not only does it cut across party lines, but it also makes the case about temperament, and is this man qualified, does he have the character to unify this country and represent every American, including those with disabilities?

This is the kind of action, Jake, that you would chastise and scold, punish your son for.

TAPPER: Let's move on.

Guy, I'm interested in getting your perspective on something that Bernie Sanders said to me in an interview that aired yesterday about the Clinton Foundation. Take a listen.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do I have a problem when a sitting secretary of state and a foundation run by her husband collects many millions of dollars from foreign governments, governments which are dictatorships? Yes. Do I have a problem with that? Yes, I do.


TAPPER: Were you surprised by that?


I think the fact of the matter is, we are in a primary. Now, the primary is going to end tomorrow, but I would expect that Senator Sanders would contend it.


Now, the facts of the matter are incorrect. The Clinton Foundation has one of highest ratings of any charity. It does work around the world. It did so before Secretary Clinton was secretary of state. It continues to do so today.

But I expect that all of the concern and furor over the primary will end soon, because every Democrat knows that there is no way that we can allow Donald Trump to ever, ever, ever become president of the United States.

TAPPER: And Mr. Trump has taken remarks that Bernie Sanders has made and used them for himself. Do you think he will take this one?

BAUMGARDNER: I want to specifically address the previous comments that both of the other panelists have made, first and foremost referring to Mr. Trump as a con man.

I mean, he's not under investigation by the FBI. So, let's be very clear on that. And, secondly, when you're making statements about how this ad cuts close to home, again, he has spent millions of dollars in his real estate locations making sure that they are beyond handicapped-accessible for anybody who is disabled, first and foremost.


NAVARRO: I think I'm entitled to say what cuts close to my heart.

BAUMGARDNER: And I'm entitled to the opportunity to finish.

NAVARRO: I'm entitled to talk about my family members.


BAUMGARDNER: Just please give me a second. Please. Thank you.


BAUMGARDNER: But, however, what cuts close to home for most Americans -- and not only do I speak on behalf of Mr. Trump in saying this, but I speak on behalf of myself as an American -- is when we treat our veterans the way that we do and Hillary Clinton plays a role in something such as Benghazi, and then can't take responsibility for and the loss of life.

This is absolutely egregious. These comments are taken out of context. And they're unsubstantiated.

TAPPER: Let me let Ana respond to what Healy said.

CECIL: Sure.

TAPPER: You don't really want to?

OK, Guy, go ahead.

CECIL: I mean, look, this is essentially the Trump strategy. They are called to the carpet for his behavior, mistreating a judge who is overseeing a case, trying to excuse the banning of Muslims from outside the country, making fun of disabled people, calling women fat slobs, and then they deliver a series of non sequiturs that make sense, that do not have anything to do with your original question.

The fact of the matter is, Donald Trump met this reporter. Donald Trump made fun of this reporter. Everyone knows it. And so continuing to simply say over and over and over again it didn't happen doesn't make it true. He should never, ever be our president.

TAPPER: Healy, Guy, Ana, thank you, one and all, for being here. Really appreciate it.

Coming up, growing danger for American troops in the fight against ISIS, as more special operations forces arrive on the ground in Syria.

Stay with us.



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

Topping our world lead today: ISIS under assault on two fronts. Iraqi security forces have secured the southern edge of Fallujah and they're trying to retake the city, which has been under ISIS control for more than two years. As you may recall, more than 100 U.S. service members, mostly Marines, were killed in the first and second battles of Fallujah more than a decade ago.

Now, this current fight comes amid reports from aid organizations that ISIS is shooting innocent civilians who are desperately trying to flee the fighting. Meanwhile, the Syrian army back by Russian airstrikes are advancing into ISIS's self-declared capital, Raqqa, in Syria.

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

Barbara, all this comes as the U.S. is increasing again the number of special operators in Syria and of course continuing the air campaign.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Jake. As all this combat heats up on multiple fronts, U.S. special operations forces are taking on some increasing dangers.


STARR (voice-over): Navy fighter jets screaming off the deck of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean, headed for ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq, the U.S. sending a message to a vital ally, Turkey, Washington will consider supporting Kurds fighting along the Syria- Turkey border.

The top U.S. commander, General Joseph Votel, making clear simultaneous attacks will continue from U.S. aircraft and local forces on the ground. Votel is holding open the option, help Syrian fighters with more weapons and ammunition.

GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: If I make a determination that we need to provide them equipment beyond what we are already providing them, then I will make that recommendation.

STARR: The first of 250 additional U.S. special operations forces have now arrived in Syria. The Pentagon insists the mission is not combat.

But from Iraq to Syria, Somalia and Libya, U.S. troops are now facing growing danger, as the Obama administration uses special operations forces like these to advise and assist local forces.

These U.S. advisers were captured on video in Northern Syria carrying grenade launchers and machine guns with noise suppressors. In Syria's Manbij area near Turkey, U.S. troops are also nearby advising in an increasingly brutal battle.

The U.S. wants to close off this part of the Syria-Turkey border to keep foreign fighters from coming into Syria and also going back out, possibly able to reach Europe with new attacks.

But little the U.S. can do in Aleppo, where humanitarian disaster is emerging, the Russians and Syrian regime pounding the city, according to U.S. officials. Russia also backing Syrian forces near Raqqa, ISIS' capital, approaching from the south, as U.S.-backed Syrian rebels push from the north.

The U.S. so far not openly saying it would defend the rebels against Russian or Syrian forces.

PETER COOK, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: They know that the engagement they have with the United States, with the coalition, is specific to the fight against ISIL.


[16:45:00] STARR: And, in Fallujah, Iraq, there may now be 50,000 civilians still trapped inside that city as the battle rages around them -- Jake.

TAPPER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us. Barbara, thank you so much.

Also in our World Lead today, a sad story. National Public Radio's David Gilkey and his Afghan translator, Zabihullah Tamanna, were killed in Afghanistan on Sunday. NPR says the two were embedded with local Afghan troops when their Humvee was hit by rocket propelled grenades during a Taliban ambush.

Gilkey was an award winning photojournalist who covered some of the devastating events in the past few decades from the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, to the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Gilkey's work took him to dangerous, divided areas. He is the first American journalist not in the military to be killed in the war in Afghanistan.

In a statement, NPR senior vice president wrote, quote, "As a man and as a photojournalist, David brought out the humanity of all those around him. He let us see the world and each other through his eyes."

Tamanna was an Afghan journalist. He was freelancing for NPR as a translator. He reported for a variety of international news agencies and leaves behind a wife and three children.

America's longest war, the war in Afghanistan, has been fought since October of 2001. That is almost 15 years.

A tropical storm barreling towards the United States. What areas will likely take a direct hit and when will the storm make landfall coming up.

And then a star college athlete convicted of raping an unconscious woman. The judge only sentenced him to six months behind bars. A legal look at the judge's decision coming up.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. In our National Lead today, the national outcry is growing after this man, a 20-year- old former Stanford University swimmer received a lenient sentence after being found guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman.

Brock Turner has been convicted on three counts of felony sexual assault after raping a woman behind a dumpster back in January 2015. She was unconscious. Turner was facing up to ten yes in state prison, but he was sentenced instead to only six months in county jail.

Critics call it a slap on the wrist. The case has also received attention because in court, the rape survivor read an emotional letter to her attacker describing her life since the attack.

After being told of the attack, quote, "I stood there examining my body and decided I don't want my body anymore. I was terrified of it. I wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else."

She also describes what it has been like since she was raped, quote, "My damage internal, unseen. I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice."

Let's bring in CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. Jeffrey, there's outrage over this sentencing. How did a man facing ten years in prison end up getting six months? What was the thought process behind it?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he got a lot of advocacy from very articulate, powerful people. His lawyer, his father who described what his son did as 20 minutes of action. He shouldn't lose his future over what his father called 20 minutes of action, which is sort of even more repulsive when you think about it.

But, you know, he was a Stanford student. He comes from a prominent -- not a prominent family but an economically successful family. The real contrast here is six months for this sort of violent rape.

And when you look at the sentences of other violent rapes from people who are for the from wealthy families, you get a very different picture and I think that's the real cause of the outrage.

TAPPER: Yes, I want to get to that in a second. But just in terms of the legal process, can the prosecutors appeal the sentencing?

TOOBIN: No, they really can't. This was a trial. The defense is actually going to be appealing and asking to have the whole case overturned. The judge clearly had the discretion to sentence Mr. Turner to six months.

The judge had a wide range of options. So there's really no legal problem that can be addressed by an appeals court here in terms of raising the sentence.

TAPPER: Let's read that letter that you referred to from Turner's father pleading for leniency. In a letter to the district attorney saying, quote, "These verdicts have broken and shattered him and our family in so many ways his life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve.

That is the steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life." Jeffrey, I hate to be rude, but who cares? He is the guilty person.

TOOBIN: Well, that's right. I mean, where do you start with a letter like that? Who is the victim here and who should we feel sorry for and how twisted do you have to be to describe the rape of an unconscious woman as 20 minutes of action? It's a pretty appalling letter and it's an appalling story.

TAPPER: Let's get to the point you were making which the rape survivor also wrote in her letter, quote, "If I had been sexually assaulted by an un-athletic guy from a community college, what would his sentence be?

If a first time offender from an underprivileged background was accused of three felonies and displayed no accountability for his actions other than drinking, what would his sentence be?"

And let me add to it, what many people are watching are probably thinking, what if it had been a black or Latino man at a less prominent college?

TOOBIN: And you know, I think that's really at the core of the outrage here because I think a lot of people believe that sentences are too long in general and a lot of people are concerned about mass incarceration.

But the one thing that everyone should agree on is that the criminal justice system should treat similar offenders in similar ways.

[16:55:04]So if most rapists are getting ten years, a Stanford rapist should get ten years, too.

TAPPER: Jeffrey Toobin, thanks so much.

Florida under a state of emergency as a tropical storm races towards the shore with landfall just hours away. A look at the forecast, next.


TAPPER: In our National Lead, the sunshine state, Florida, bracing for Tropical Storm Colin. Right now, it's already pummeling parts of Florida's gulf coast with rain. The main danger is heavy rain and flooding and maybe even isolated tornadoes.

The governor of Florida, Rick Scott, has already declared a state of emergency today urging residents, visitors, and businesses to remain vigilant.

Tropical Storm Colin is the third storm to form this year in the Atlantic Ocean. It's the earliest that three named storms have hit the region.

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