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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
French Election Coming Days After Attack; Crisis in Venezuela: 11 Killed in Overnight Violence; Interview with Congressman Eliot Engel of New York. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired April 21, 2017 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: No outright expression of support from Obama. However, Obama did only call one candidate and Trump tweeted about the defining position of only one candidate.
[16:30:06] Does the French election matter to you? Well, it does to the current and former leaders of the free world.
CNN's Melissa Bell is in Paris for us tonight.
Melissa, what are you hearing and learning from French voters about the effect of this terror attack on the vote?
MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've been trying to gauge because we've been trying to get to the end of the campaign that closes at midnight local time here in opinion. There will be no more opinion polls, so we'll really have no measure, Jim, of precisely what impact this attack just over 24 hours ago now coming as it did at the 11th hour will have on what was already looking like an extremely tight and unpredictable election. And if it matters as much not only to the current but to the former American presidents, that's not so much again about left and right but about openness and closure as you just explained.
One of the interesting things going into this election is how many undecided voters still remain even now. How are the events that took place here just over 24 hours going to play into the narrative, both of Marine Le Pen, the far right candidate, and her immediate challenger, the independent centrist Emmanuel Macron. Have a look.
BELL (voice-over): The time 9:00 p.m. and the timing three days before the presidential election. On the Champs-Elysees, the attacker identified as Karim Cheurfi has just been killed after shooting into police van with an automatic weapon. One police officer is dead, two others and a tourist are wounded.
Within three hours, the Islamic State has claimed responsibility.
The following morning, several raids were carried out in a number of locations, three members of Cheurfi's family were taken into custody. As the investigation gathered pace, the government met to discuss security ahead of Sunday's vote and the likely political fallout. With less than 48 hours to go until polls open, France's prime
minister expressed his fear that one candidate might try to add fuel to the fire.
BERNARD CAZENEUVE, FRENCH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The candidate like every drama seeks to profit from and to control the situation to divide, he seeks to benefit from fear for exclusively political ends.
BELL: Marine Le Pen has put the fight against Islamist violence at the heart of her campaign. Controversially, she wants all terror suspects thrown out of France and country's borders closed.
Within 12 hours of the attack, she went on the offensive.
MARINE LE PEN, FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I demand an investigation be open, with the objecting of dissolving associative and cultural organizations that promote or finance fundamentalist ideologies. The hate preachers must be expelled. The Islamist mosques must be closed.
BELL: Le Pen repeated her intention of having all terror suspects some 10,500 people expelled if elected president. Shortly afterwards, her main rival, the opponent centrist Emmanuel Macron took to the air waves with his reply.
EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do not give in to fear. Do not give in to division. Do not give in to intimidation.
BELL: With the campaign ending at midnight tonight, the only measure of the choice the French had a made will be the poll itself, a poll that's hard to call as it is likely to prove decisive.
BELL: Now, it is very easy in all this given the timing of this attack, given the proximity of the opening of polling stations here in France to forget what was at the heart of this, and what we're talking about is the police officer whose life was taken so tragically just over 24 hours, Xavier Jugele. He will be the subject of a national tribute.
He was a proud police officer, a proud defender as well of gay rights. He had been called to the Bataclan on the 15th of November, Jim, which he covered together at the time in 2015. He had been as well to the Bataclan's reopening when Sting had held that concert. He was the one who was taken down by this attacker 24 hours ago and, of course, there is tonight a French family and many of his friends were grieving. This goes far beyond in a sense the question of how France is going to vote.
SCIUTTO: Indeed, indeed. He witnessed violence twice and lost his life. Melissa Bell, thanks very much
In other world news, violent deadly protests jolting Venezuela now. Eleven people killed overnight there, dozens more have been wounded over the last 48 hours. For several days now, opposition demonstrators demanding political reform have taken to the street and clashed with riot police and the military. One protester coming eye to eye with an armored vehicle, evoking memories of this iconic moment from protest in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Venezuelans are now suffering through a dire humanitarian and economic crisis under the country's socialist president, Nicolas Maduro, who has continually oppressed dissidents.
[16:35:05] In response to the chaos, General Motors has now ended its operations in Venezuela after a plant was seized by the Maduro government.
Freelance journalist Stefano Pozzebon is in Venezuelan capital of Caracas.
Stefano, what is the latest you're hearing on the ground now?
STEFANO POZZEBON, FREELANCE JOURNALIST: Yes, Jim, the latest here is that Caracas today is quiet, is still recovering from the dramatic acts of last night as you said correctly 11 people died in an incident in a bakery. Of course, the situation here could derail anytime soon. The opposition have already called for two more actions on streets. One for tomorrow and one on Monday.
And it's real difficult to forecast how the outcome of this new cycle of protests here will ever be. Venezuelan politics is a game of endurance. We'll see how -- if the opposition can keep the momentum going and can keep the people on the street which is what they are trying to get and these inflammatory tones that we are seeing so far can only spark a lot of the protests so far.
It will be interesting to see how the next week will develop if the opposition gathers more and more support in order to try to break through the machismo and have a new cycle of general elections, which is ultimately the ultimate goal for them.
SCIUTTO: Election preferable to the violence. Stefano Pozzebon in Caracas -- thanks very much.
A new report claims the secretary of defense did not know the U.S. was using the so-called "Mother of All Bombs" before it was dropped in Afghanistan. Has President trump put his generals on too long of a leash? That's right after this.
SCIUTTO: Joining me now is Congressman Eliot Engel of the great state of New York, the Empire State, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Nice to welcome a fellow New Yorker. Thanks for taking the time.
REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D-NY), RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Thank you. Nice to be interviewed by a fellow New Yorker.
SCIUTTO: And Mets fan. Next interview, we'll just talk about the Mets. But there's serious stuff going on.
North Korea, you visited there twice as duties of the foreign committee. Lots of tension there now, no question. And there appears to be a change in the administration policy at least in terms of the rhetoric. How do you think the president is handling the North Korean threat?
ENGEL: Well, I think it's sort of fly by the seat of your pants. I mean, it's not a consistent pattern. It's not good to do saber- rattling, because this guy, Kim Jong-un, is we don't know if he's crazy or if he's very smart, but he's dangerous. And I think you don't play games like that.
It's the type of regime that we don't see anyplace else. The feeling that you get when you go to Pyongyang, and I was in North Korea twice, but only in Pyongyang twice. You feel like you've stepped into 1953 East Berlin. It's gray and it's drab, there are a few cars on the road. There are lights that are broken and just a weird, weird feeling.
And I think we need very strongly to engage China. I know the president is trying to do that. But you can't insult the Chinese one day and engage them the other day, and then talk about our vessels going one direction when they are really going in another direction. It's very, very dangerous.
SCIUTTO: The president is the laying out there and he even said to President Xi that if you help on North Korea you'll get a better trade deal. Is that an exchange that China is actually interested in?
ENGEL: No, and I think it's a bit insulting to tell you the truth. Not that I hold any candle for the Chinese communists, but it's sort of like big brother is saying if you give me this, I'll give you that and setting the rules and the regulations. I don't think that's how you do diplomacy. It's a serious business.
On another issue, different region, Egypt. Of course, you're aware an American charity worker who'd been imprisoned in Cairo for three years, now at home in the U.S. President Trump had asked for that release in his meetings with President al-Sisi. Of course, during those meetings, President Trump got criticism for sitting down with al-Sisi, calling him a fantastic leader, but not challenging him on Egypt's many human rights abuses.
From your seat, was this a sign of successful diplomacy from the Trump administration?
ENGEL: Well, I think al-Sisi is a good ally. And, you know, when you look at Egypt, we're not going to get a parliamentary democracy there. You really have two choices, it's al-Sisi and military and the people that back him or it's the al Qaeda group frankly. And that's an easy choice for me.
We have to keep prodding al-Sisi. He was on Capitol Hill. We talk to him about the NGOs and about more freedoms. But I think we have to be very careful, because Egypt is the most populous Arab country. It's an important ally. They have experienced terrorism. They are working with Israel. They are working with the United States.
And so, I think we have to be very careful. But that doesn't mean you don't push your friends and your allies when you see something they wish they would do the opposite.
SCIUTTO: But it sounds like you endorse the president's approach to Egypt in effect, that security is paramount when it comes to Egypt?
ENGEL: Well, I think Egypt is very important.
Look, I take the president's policies one by one. I don't automatically go against everything he says. I think, on Egypt, it's a good policy but we have to press them for more human rights -- end the human rights violations and pressing more towards democracy.
SCIUTTO: Well, you mentioned that the State Department tells us that there are 20 other Americans currently held or detained in Egypt. What is -- what do you know that the U.S. or the Trump administration is doing to free those other Americans?
[16:45:06] ENGEL: Well, I know, there's a lot of -- you know, talk behind the scenes obviously. That was also being done by the Obama administration as well. It's very disheartening because again, it's Americans. We care about our fellow Americans no matter where they are and it's NGOs who are pushing for freedoms and all kinds of organizations, democracy in Egypt. So we don't want those stifled. We want democracy to flow. It's not there yet but we want it to flow. But Egypt I think has been a good partner of the United States.
SCUITTO: Congressman Engel, thanks very much for taking the time.
ENGEL: Thank you.
SCUITTO: Appreciate having you on.
A Tennessee teacher arrested and accused of kidnapping a 15-year-old girl and taking her to a cabin all the way in California where witnesses say he told them she was his wife. Sara Sidner is live with more.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're going to have an exclusive live look inside the cabin where Tad Cummins was before he was taken into custody alongside the15-year-old victim. We'll give you all the details coming up in just a bit.
[16:50:00] SCUITTO: Welcome back. We're back now with our "TECH LEAD." Sometimes it's just too much effort to pick up your phone and type out a text and Facebook wants to fix that. The company is now, working on technology that will let you type words as you think them. You heard that right. Here's some examples of this technology already but they require surgical implants that use sensors and optical imaging that translate information into words. Facebook showed a woman with ALS who has these implants. She cannot move or speak herself but can type using only her mind. Right now she is able to type eight words per minute and Facebook hopes to get that up to100 words per minute in a few years, that's about five times faster than you can type on your smartphone with your finger. Let's just hope there's no mental autocorrect.
Turning now to the "NATIONAL LEAD" and the phone call that led a missing -- led to a missing 15-year-old girl and a 50-year-old teacher accused of kidnapping her. Authorities are working her to bring Ted Cummins back to Tennessee after a five-week manhunt. A witness spotted Cummins with his former student Elizabeth Thomas deep in the woods of Northern California. That's more than 2,000 miles away from Culleoka, Tennessee where they're from. Also far from the Oklahoma City Walmart where they were spotted just last month. You can see the picture there. CNN's Sara Sidner joins me now. Sara, so you're standing in the cabin where they found. Goodness, I mean, it's just so remote, I mean, really incredible they were found there.
SIDNER: It is, and I'll give you an idea of just how remote it is, where this cabin is the last cabin on the property. You can see there's a stream, a mountain stream coming down from here and we are surrounded by mountains. But we're pretty high up in the mountains here in northern California in Siskiyou County. I want to bring you inside of this cabin. Now, the owner of the cabin says, look, this was being built so there's no electricity, there is sort of nothing in here. This is the bare bones and what you see are places like where they were cooking. So there's a grill here with a little gas canister and there's some rice. The FBI was in here for much of the day today and the Sheriff's Department the day before, but what we also see here is paperwork from the authorities, this one saying it's a search and seizure warrant. There's also a long list of things that were taken out including coconut oil and K-Y jelly. Why are those things important? Because the authorities are trying to establish there was some sort of sexual relationship between this 50-year-old teacher Tad Cummins and his 15-year-old former student victim and that -- these details will help them to get there. And so, that's why this evidence is very important, some of the things taken out of this very cabin.
SCUITTO: It's a -- just gut wrenching to hear those details. I'm actually amazed they let you inside there since it seems like an investigation scene. But in terms of what the locals are telling you there, they say that his cover story in effect was that this young girl was his 22-year-old wife?
SIDNER: That's right. He told the caretaker of these cabins that he was the 44 and that he was with his 22-year-old wife and that they had been on hard times and needed help. Its caretaker gave $40 and helped fill up their vehicle with gas. Here's what else he said about meeting Mr. Cummins and the young victim.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: What did he say to you? What were the conversations that you have?
GRIFFIN BARRY, PROPERTY CARETAKER: The first time, it was like, we're from Colorado and had a house fire and lost everything.
SIDNER: Did he ever tell you what the relationship was. Between his --
BARRY: The first time he said it was his wife but she was in the car always looking away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: She was very shy, he said, Jim and every time she would ever try to say something, he said that Tad Cummins -- and he didn't know who he was that time but that her alleged husband would stop her and interject. And so, he said that it looked like there was some control issues. And he and another man decided that this was suspicious, they also noticed he kept trying to kind of hide his car out of view. Turns out, the vehicle didn't have license plates. They decided you know what; something's wrong and they saw the information from authorities that they were wanted, and called authorities. Jim.
SCUITTO: Where is the girl now and do we know what's next for Cummins immediately?
SIDNER: As we understand, the victim, the girl, 15 years old has been taken out of here and sent to Tennessee. We understand now that Tad Cummins was supposed to be arraigned here today but the FEDS stepped in, said, nope, he is wanted on federal charges, they had a warrant for him and they took him to a Sacramento where there is a Federal Courthouse and we will hear from him likely on Monday. Jim.
[16:55:00] SCUITTO: Just a 15-year-old girl. Sara Sidner, so glad she's safe, thanks very much.
Now, to a new series, we're launching called Earth Matters. Tomorrow, on earth day, scientists and supporters are planning a huge march for science, one big rally in D.C. and the nearly 500 others across the globe. Scientists organizing the march say that their very work is threatened today. Others use President Trump's contract with the American voters as evidence to that. Before the election, he pledged to cancel billions in payments to United Nation's Climate Change Programs and use the money to fix America's water and environmental infrastructure. I want to bring in CNN's Jennifer Gray. Jennifer, is that money is diverted, it could have a big impact on several programs already in place, what do we know?
JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You're exactly right. With the President vowing to cut funding from U.N. programs as well as possibly pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, it could have some big consequences, they were not just talking about America's diplomatic relationships, we're also talking about the communities around the world. They rely on this funding for their livelihood.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It's time to put America first. We're going to put America first. That includes a promise to cancel billions in climate change spending for the United Nations.
GRAY: That campaign pledge is sending shockwaves across the globe where millions of people are spending the money on, well, survival. The U.S. contributes significantly to international pools of money that the U.N. and its partners use to help vulnerable regions adapt to climate change. For example, 32,000 Bolivian potato farmers use international funds to prepare their crops for a harsher climate. And in Vietnam's rice fields, U.N. programs help protect crops from rising sea levels. But the Trump administration says,
SCOTT PRUITT, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY ADMINISTRATOR: We're not spending money on that anymore.
GRAY: Expert say, it's a move that ignores not just overwhelming scientific evidence but important diplomatic relationships as well.
ANDREW LIGHT, U.S SPECIAL ENVOY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE FORMER SENIOR ADVISER: When U.S. pulls out, it sends a signal to other countries that one of the biggest emitters on the planet is really not going to help the rest of the world and that's the kind of thing that will dull cooperation overall.
GRAY: Andrew Light was a key member of the Obama administration's climate change team working around the globe and seeing the benefits of international funding firsthand.
LIGHT: The U.S. pulling back is going to be very difficult in terms of the stability of these systems.
GRAY: If Trump sticks to its plans, it would be an about-face from the previous administration's aggressive climate change agenda.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We are going to contribute $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund so we can help developing nations deal with climate change.
GRAY: President Trump's proposed budget eliminates contribution to the Green Climate Fund. It would also cut more than $10 billion from U.S. Aid and the State Department. Two of the world's leaders in climate work.
TRUMP: We're going cancel the Paris Climate Agreement.
GRAY: Many Trump supporters including those in his cabinet applaud these proposals as a way to prioritize domestic interests.
PRUIT: It's a bad deal for America. It was an America second, third or fourth kind of approach.
GRAY: But money isn't the only concern.
ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: As water gets more scarce, it threatens to become a catalyst for conflict.
GRAY: A 2016 study published by the National Academy of Sciences found that climate change was linked to 23 percent of armed conflicts in ethnically divided areas.
GUTERRES: Climate change is a menace to livelihoods, to property and to business.
GRAY: In recent months, President Trump has drastically changed his rhetoric on health care, in Chinese trade and even invited discussion on to the Paris Climate Agreement before postponing it. Still, experts fear he won't change on climate change.
LIGHT: It's not the big picture. It's that one particular program that I knew was helping that one particular community that I don't know if that's going to last and I don't know if I can rally enough people to save that and that hurts a lot.
GRAY: And as people hit the streets tomorrow for the march for science they hope it sends a strong message, not only to the White House but Congress as they set to vote on the proposed budget in the coming weeks. Jim.
SCUITTO: Jennifer Gray, thanks very much. A program note now, on Monday we are marking President Trump's first 100 days in office with a special primetime edition of THE LEAD in addition to the regular 4:00 p.m. time, were going to be live at 9:00 Eastern time with Jake Tapper, it all starts on Monday, we hope you will join us. That is it for it for THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto in for Jake Tapper today. I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer, he is where you expect to find him in the "THE SITUATION ROOM."
WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: Happening now, breaking news, Russian infiltration? CNN has learned the FBI has indications that Russian intelligence tried to infiltrate the Trump campaign. The alleged plan were to use a Trump adviser to monitor campaign operations. Was it successful?