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Interview with Mike Pence; Libertarian Presidential Nominee Gary Johnson Does Not Know What Aleppo Is; JASTA Bill to Go Before House for Vote; Ryan Lochte Banned from Swimming Competitions for 10 Months. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired September 8, 2016 - 16:30   ET


GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Well, what I can tell you is what he laid out yesterday. What he laid out in Youngstown, Ohio, is a plan to bring in military commanders within 30 days for -- and to have their recommendations, including added to his thoughts and his ideas of how we can hunt down and defeat and destroy ISIS at its source.

[16:30:13] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, you haven't seen the plan?

PENCE: As I said, I'm going to keep our private conversations private. But I want to say to you is that what you're hearing Donald Trump said is that we're going to have leadership that is focused and determined.

BASH: Do you think they will come up with a new plan to defeat ISIS that they have not come up with under President Obama? I mean, it sort of suggests a dereliction of duty by the military.

PENCE: No, the military commanders serve at the pleasure of civilian authority. The commander-in-chief makes the call. And I'm confident that our military commanders can bring forward the idea, once the commander-in-chief makes the mission clear, which Donald Trump has made clear.

And, Dana, we have to do it. The truth is that --

BASH: That could mean troops on the ground, if you really want to go for it, you know what it takes. Are you and Mr. Trump willing to go that aggressively in a way that Mr. Obama just isn't?

PENCE: Well, what I could tell you is that Donald Trump as commander- in-chief is not going to signal to the enemy what we will or will not do, as Hillary Clinton did last night on national television.

BASH: To anybody in the military who saw that and thought he was being critical of the military, not so much or in addition to the current president, what would you say?

PENCE: I don't -- I don't think they would take it that way, I really don't. And frankly, as I campaign around the country with and for Donald Trump, and I see the tremendous support we have among veterans active duty military personnel. BASH: You have really took it upon yourself to reach out to a lot of

Republicans who you have really good relationships with, to talk about what's going on with the campaign, people who Donald Trump doesn't have a relationship with. Are you kind of a Trump whisperer at this point?


PENCE: I don't even know what that means. I --

BASH: You try to translate what Trump really meant to the people who are skeptical of what he's trying to do?

PENCE: Look, I'm incredibly honored to be standing shoulder to shoulder with Donald Trump and I have the privilege of not only knowing the policies, but getting to know the man, getting to know the family. This is a good man --

BASH: Do you find when you have private conversations with skeptics, that because you have talked to him on a daily basis that you have success in explaining what he is really trying to say or trying to do?

PENCE: Well, I've had a number of very warm conversations with leaders around the country and more and more Republican leaders, and independents, and many Democrats are being drawn to this campaign.


BASH: Now, Pence also told me he will release his tax returns by the end of the week. Jake, that means, of course, tomorrow. And also, I asked him about his own debate prep, Donald Trump has said that he is not doing a traditional prep with a stand-in for his opponent. Mike Pence told me he is. He has somebody who he's doing mock debates with, who was playing Tim Kaine, who he will be debating at the beginning of October, wouldn't tell who that is, but he said he is taking it very seriously because he says he feels it is important to do right by Trump at this debate -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Dana Bash, thank you so much.

I want to bring in our panel, senior writer for "The Federalist", Mary Katharine Ham, and "USA Today" columnist Kirsten Powers. You heard Governor Pence agreeing with Donald Trump that Vladimir Putin is a better leader than President Obama. I'm going to ask you your thoughts after this quick break.


[16:38:08] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

We've got a lot to chew over. So, let's get right to our political panel, CNN political commentator and senior writer for "The Federalist", Mary Katharine Ham, CNN political analyst and "USA Today" columnist, Kirsten Powers, both undecided voters, my two favorite undecided voters in the entire world. Let's talk a little bit about Donald Trump saying that Vladimir Putin

is a stronger leader than President Obama, Mike Pence just backed that up. Here is what Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan had to say about it this morning.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Let me say this about Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Putin is an aggressor that does not share our interest. Vladimir Putin is violating the sovereignty of neighboring countries. It certainly appears that he is conducting state-sponsored cyber attacks on what appears to be our political system. That is not acting in our interests, and that is an adversarial stance and he is acting like an adversary.


TAPPER: Stewart Stevens, the former chief strategist for Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign said of what Mr. Trump said, "If in '08 Senator Barack Obama had praised Putin as a better president than the American, Republicans would have demanded he quit the race."

What do you make of this?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, their heads would have exploded. And, look, I think Pence is one -- look, he is saying he is a better advocate for his country on a world stage than Obama has been for our country. Still, you need to stipulate that, you know, he kills journalists to be a an advocate for his program in his own country. And really that's not what we're advocating here.

And this is a pattern with Trump who has expressed admiration for Putin in the past, and has a tendency to be a little bit authoritarian in his ideas for how he wants to lead the country. So, you don't want to be complimentary of Putin. You want to stay away from that.

TAPPER: What do you make of it, Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, I think that the most concerning issue with Trump and there are many things to be concerned about is this authoritarian bent and the fact that he praises authoritarianism. So, when you talk about, oh, his great poll numbers as if there are real poll numbers in Russia, or is he now going to start talking about how there's low crime rates in totalitarian countries?

[16:40:03] I mean, it's not -- there is a reason he likes them, and that is because he seems to go outside the normal, you know, ways of dealing the way we deal with power in a democracy and I think -- if I was Matt Lauer, that's why I would ask about it, would have asked like, what is -- are you going to be an authoritarian type leader?

HAM: Well, I think it's interesting particularly for conservative voters, they rightly in the past have accused Obama of having a lot of moral clarity about this kind of thing and that's exactly what Trump seems to be expressing here, is a lack of moral clarity about exactly what kind of leader Putin is.

TAPPER: I want to bring up something that Hillary Clinton said. She has been getting criticism because she said that she would never send any ground troops into Syria. First of all, obviously, there are troops, Special Ops, in Syria and many thousands of troops in Iraq, and also, a lot of people think it is not wise to take anything off of the table, Kirsten.

POWERS: No, I think that's wise, and I suspect she misspoke. It doesn't seem right and when you consider the audience that she was speaking to in particular, to not acknowledge people who are on the ground, to acknowledge their sacrifices that they're making right now, it seems like a gaffe to me. It doesn't seem like something she intended to say.

TAPPER: It's interesting. I want to ask Mary Katharine. In an interview with Israeli television Channel 2, Clinton brought up an article analyzing ISIS Twitter feeds, an article was concluded, ISIS wants Donald Trump to win the election. Take a listen.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The jihadists see this as a great gift. They are saying, oh, please, Allah, make Trump president of America. So, I'm not interest in giving aide and comfort to their evil ambitions. I want to defeat them. I want to end their reign of terror.


TAPPER: That's a Clinton talking for a while and there are people in counterterrorism who say it's true. What do you make of the invocation of Allah?

HAM: Well, I actually -- I think the Allan line was certainly in the hands of any Republican to be considered a micro aggression, if not a macro aggression culturally.

TAPPER: Trigger warning.

HAM: You know, I think you're right to say she made a very definitive statement about never having troops in Iraq, but that is where ISIS is the most part. And it's very definitive and it ignores people on the ground. When you are in this room of people, who have people who sacrificed in Iraq, who gave all in Iraq, these are, you know, Gold Star families and veterans, many of whom have friends there, probably now, it just seems like a real misstep.

So, when the Clinton campaign is pointing out, rightly, Donald Trump's lack of detail, they should look at their own plan, which is, we're never going in there.

POWERS: But she is obviously sort of overcompensating for the fact that she voted for the Iraq war. And so, she's now going overboard and saying something that doesn't really make sense.

TAPPER: All right. My two favorite undecided voters, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

A question that tripped up a presidential candidate this morning.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would you do if you were elected about Aleppo?



TAPPER: Governor Johnson turned up the volume. We're going to answer your question coming up.

Plus, families of September 11 victims want to be able to sue Saudi Arabia over the terrorist attacks, but President Obama standing in their way, why?


JAKE TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. When libertarian presidential nominee, Governor Gary Johnson, was talking about getting more traction with the mainstream media, he probably was not talking about doing it this way.


UNKNOWN MALE: What would you do if you were elected about Aleppo?


UNKNOWN MALE: You're kidding.


UNKNOWN MALE: Aleppo is in Syria. It's the epicenter of the refugee crisis (--)

JOHNSON: Okay, got it.

TAPPER (voice over: That was Governor Gary Johnson doing his best impression of a deer in headlights with his reaction to a perfectly reasonable question about the crisis in Aleppo. So given that there are children in Aleppo who have known nothing but war in their entire lives, maybe a presidential nominee should know something about the epicenter of the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world right now. So here's a little catch up. Aleppo is Syria's largest city. It's under constant bombardment for most of this decade by Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad's forces, now joined by some more planes brought to you by Vladimir Putin. This is what Aleppo looked like before 2012, before this five-year-old war. Aleppo was once a bustling economic hub; a cultural destination. This is what it looks like now. It's, as our own Clarissa Ward describes it, "An apocalyptic hell." Hundreds of thousands of residents have fled as the city has been reduced to rubble. Three hundred thousand are still trapped in that hell with no apparent way out. One humanitarian group says more than 4500 children under the age of 18 have been killed in the Aleppo areas since the war began. Here's a resident of Aleppo, Governor Johnson. His name is Omran Dahnish(ph). He's a little boy who survived a bombing and became a symbol of the suffering there. His brother was killed. This show brought you their story three weeks ago. If you went online, you really couldn't miss his image.

Just yesterday, we brought you the shocking images of a suspected chemical weapons attack against the people of Aleppo. The Syrian regime allegedly dropping barrels of chlorine gas on innocent civilians there. Medical activists say it sent more than 100 people, including dozens of children to the hospital. Last month, as we told you then, 15 of the last remaining physicians in Aleppo wrote an open letter to President Obama pleading for humanitarian aid and asking for help, "We have seen no effort on behalf of the United States to lift the siege on Aleppo or even use its influence to push the parties to protect civilians."


TAPPER: So before we're too harsh about Governor Gary Johnson's ignorance, let us also contemplate the words of Greg Gutfeld who today asked, "What's worse? Not knowing about Aleppo or knowing all along and not acting on it?"

Families of September 11th victims pushing congress to pass a bill to allow them to sue Saudi Arabia. Why is President Obama fighting this bill? Stay with us.



TAPPER: We're back with our NATIONAL LEAD. This Sunday will mark 15 years since that horrible day, September 11th, 2001, and today the families of the almost 3000 victims may be one step closer to achieving at least some measure of accountability for that mass tragedy. Tomorrow, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on a bill that would allow the 9/11 victim's families to sue Saudi Arabia over its possible ties to the 19 terrorists who committed the mass murder that day. The senate has already passed the bill; perhaps you remember. It was in May. Even if the legislation passes the house tomorrow, President Obama has pledged to veto the bill over concerns, he says, that it would set a president that would put the U.S. Government, Military, and tax payers at risk for future lawsuits.


The House is expected to pass the bill tomorrow, but the supporters of the legislation are trying to get enough support to override the President's anticipated veto. Let's bring in Terry Strada now. She is the National Chair for 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism. Her husband, Tom Strada, was a senior vice president at Cantor Fitzgerald and the father of three, including a newborn baby that day. He was on the 104th floor of the north tower that horrible, horrible morning.

First of all, Terry, thanks for being here. I want to get to the legislation in a second, but most importantly, how are you doing? How are the three kids?

NATIONAL CHAIR FOR 9/11 FAMILIES AND SURVIVORS UNITED FOR JUSTICE AGAINST TERRORISM, TERRY STRADA: I'm doing OK, Jake, thank you for asking, and the kids are doing well. My oldest is a senior at college. My daughter just started her freshman year, and my son, my youngest, just started high school.

TAPPER: That would be the one that was a newborn baby that day?

STRADA: Yes, just turned 15 yesterday.

TAPPER: OK. Well we're glad you're doing - you're doing well. You and the other victims have been pushing for the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act for four years. What was your reaction when you saw that the bill is actually finally moving forward in the house and do you think you're going to be able to get the two-thirds majority to override the President's veto?

STRADA: I was very excited when I heard the news yesterday. I actually got a phone call from Kevin McCarthy's office telling me the news and (--)

TAPPER: The House Majority Leader?

STRADA: Yes, the House Majority Leader, and it was exciting and thrilling. Do I think we're going to get it. I absolutely do. I'm very optimistic. We have very strong support in the house right now for the bill.

TAPPER: And what is your response to the President's objections, not that he opposes justice for you but that he worries about the precedent this might set and other countries being able to sue the United States?

STRADA: There's really no reality to that. I mean, we're just going to hold people accountable for terrorism acts; for funding and financing terrorist acts on United States soil that kills American citizens. So as long as we're not funding terrorist groups and we're not, you know, causing terrorist attacks in other countries, we don't have anything to worry about. It's a really very narrowly crafted piece of legislation that only deals with that directly. There's not going to be lawsuits rampant from that.

TAPPER: Have you heard from the White House at all?

STRADA: No, they're pretty silent with us. We don't hear from them.

TAPPER: The Saudi government, of course, warned that if the bill were to become law, they would resort to some retaliatory economic measures, possibly selling $750 billion in U.S. assets. What do you make of that threat? STRADA: I think it's an empty threat and I think even the White House agreed with that shortly after they said it was a threat and then they came back and they said, "No, the Saudis would never do that. It would hurt their economy way more than it would hurt ours, and they wouldn't take the risk of any world economy, you know, downfall." The Saudis aren't going to do that.

TAPPER: And what do you think when you hear the Saudis say there is no evidence that the Saudi government had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks?

STRADA: I say why you fighting JASTA so hard then? If there's no evidence, if you're not afraid, if you have nothing to hide, then you should not be up there lobbying on the hill as strongly as you are, spending millions of dollars against this bill. What are you so afraid of? There is evidence and I know that's why they're fighting the bill.

TAPPER: For the last 15 years since that horrible day, a lot of people say "Never forget, never forget." Do you think the American people are honoring that, never forget? Do you think that we as a nation are putting the right reverence on what happened that day?

STRADA: I think I see it a lot of time. Yes, I do. I think that the American people are much more together united as a group since 9/11, you know, and that we're definitely, you know, concerned about our national security. So I do believe that there's been a lot of unity since 9/11.

TAPPER: All right, well good luck with your legislation. We'll be thinking about you on Sunday. Thank you so much.

STRADA: Thank you so much.

TAPPER: Turning now to our SPORTS LEAD. The price of a lie that turned into an international hubbub and an international embarrassment: Ryan Lochte has been suspended from domestic and international U.S.A. swimming team competitions for 10 months for fabricating robbery claims during the Rio Olympics. Today's joint decision by the United States Olympic Committee and U.S. swimming means the 12-time Olympic medalist will not be allowed to participate in next year's World Swimming Championship. The next World Championship he will be allowed to compete in will be in 2019. He'll be 35. All for allegedly making up that dramatic story about being robbed at gunpoint, Lochte is facing charges of falsely reporting a crime in Brazil which could bring a fine or up to six months in a Brazilian prison, but he'll have plenty to do during his suspension. He's training to appear on "Dancing with the Stars," ironically, representing a crime prevention device maker. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Thank you so much for watching. You can follow me on Twitter at Jake Tapper or the show at THE LEAD CNN. We actually read your tweets. Also, we're on Facebook. I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer. He is next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM."


WOLF BLITZER: Happening Now: Breaking news: Spinning out of control?