Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Republicans Condemn Representative Steve King's Offensive Comments; Syria Withdrawal: U.S. Military Begins Removing Military Equipment; ; Missing 13-Year-Old Girl Jayme Closs Found Alive In Wisconsin; New Florida Governor Suspends Broward County Sheriff Israel In Wake Of Response To Parkland Massacre. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired January 11, 2019 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:30:11] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Condemnation coming fast and furious for the latest racist declaration by Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa.

This all started when King told "The New York Times", quote: White nationalist, white supremacist, western civilization, how did that language become offensive? Which of course sparked massive outrage because white supremacy is offensive for reasons quite obvious.

After being condemned by Democrats and Republicans alike, King took to the floor this afternoon to head off an effort to formally censure him. He insisted that he is not a racist, despite of course a long history of rhetoric and actions that suggest otherwise, including retweeting and associating with neo-Nazis or calling Mexican migrants dirt, or calling changing demographics cultural suicide and on and on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: Under any fair political definition, I am simply an American nationalist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: King tells CNN that he is not worried about the fallout over this.

My panel's back with me.

We should point out there is a very strong condemnation from Republican -- Republican South Carolina Senator Tim Scott condemning the comments in a "Washington Post" op-ed titled, "Republicans can no longer be silent to bigotry". He went even further writing: King's comments are not conservative views but separate views that should be ridiculed at every turn possible. That's why silence is no longer acceptable.

And former Governor Jeb Bush tweeted: It's not enough to condemn Steve King's unconscionable racist remarks. Republican leaders must actively support a worthy primary opponent to defeat King because he won't have the decency to resign. So, Alfonso, ridiculing King and giving him a primary challenge, is that enough in terms of condemnation for King?

ALFONSO AGUILAR, PRESIDENT, LATINO PARTNERSHIP FOR CONSERVATIVE PRINCIPLES: No, I think he should be censured and I think more Republicans should come forward and denounce him. This is -- as he were saying -- not the first time that he uses offensive language. I've been butting heads with Steve King for a very long time over immigration policy and over comments he's made about immigrants and Dreamers.

But, look, I think people are so getting tired of him in his district. He used to win by double digits. Last time, he won by about three points. He's going to be primaried. So, I think people are getting tired of him.

And I think he really gives a bad example to the majority of conservatives who actually are not racist.

TAPPER: But we should point out, he's not like some fringe Republican. He's on the House Judiciary Committee. He was the chairman of -- the honorary chairman of Senator Ted Cruz's presidential campaign. Cruz who just a few weeks ago said something in terms of like an attaboy to him.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I'd be curious to see what Ted Cruz would have to say about these statements. I would think that he would align himself with remarks that Tim Scott made.

But the censure idea, you know, I'm open to it, but I think there's a question, if you censure Steve King, how do you not also censure the president for example? I do think it opens up a door and I would like to see more specific action from House leadership, for example, stripping him of those committee assignments that you mentioned. Given his remarks, it is absurd that he sits on a committee that deals with the Constitution, civil rights immigration and border security.

I think that's a very specific action coupled with all the Republicans saying we will not support you with financial resources. We will not endorse you. We will support a challenger. That will be far more effective.

TAPPER: You know, it's weird in this town the kinds of offenses that lead to people resigning, cut from Congress suddenly because the -- you know, the Nancy Pelosi or the Republican leader whoever leans on them, whether it's Anthony Weiner or they're Eric Massa with the tickle fights and, you know, if you remember that, and then there was the guy the Republican congressman he was married who showed up like shirtless and some like dating website -- like it happens. They get chased out.

But it doesn't happen for congressmen who say things that are racist. They don't get chased out.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, the other thing is Steve King has been around for a long time and he's been saying these things for a long time. So even for Ted Cruz to have done that I think is still problematic. I mean, he also said that we should have an electrified fence on the border because we use that for livestock. So, essentially comparing Latinos coming to the border to animals.

So he said plenty of things and I think the Republican Party should have dealt with him a long time ago. And so, yes, he absolutely should be stripped of his committee assignments and censure regardless of what happens with the president.

I don't think -- Jeb Bush, you know, he's not even an active person in the Republican Party. So, it's nice that he said it, but I think that -- and Tim Scott is an African-American. There needs to be people who -- white people in the Republican Party who hold office standing up and speaking out against this. It can't just fall on Tim Scott.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It definitely can't just fall on Tim Scott. I mean, look, I will never forget in 2016 when Steve King was on a show, looked at April Ryan and asked her, well, what have subgroups contributed to America? What have black people contributed to America?

So, it is baffling to me -- you say it's interesting about the things that get people chase out of this town. It's interesting to me how Steve King -- he's always been this way.

[16:35:00] Steve King has been a white supremacist and a white nationalist since he was in the state legislature in Iowa.

His crowning piece of legislation for the six years he was in the state legislature was a bill that mandated English is the official language of the state of Iowa. So, he has been a white nationalist and a white supremacist.

So I'm glad that there's some Republicans that are stepping up is speaking out, but I think the Republican Party needs to ask themselves, what took us along and what are we going to do differently? And if the answer is we're just going to tweet about it, we're just going to condemn Steve King and think that we fixed our issues, I would venture to say they have not -- they do not really know what the root of the problem is and they're not really examining what's going on inside the party.

TAPPER: Absolutely, he's not the only problem.

SANDERS: No.

TAPPER: But what do you think should happen to him?

SANDERS: Oh, I think he's absolutely to be censured. I think he should be stripped of his -- I think he should be stripped of his committee assignments. I think Republicans in Washington and in his state should refuse to associate with him.

Now, look the people of Iowa did in fact elect him, so I do not believe -- I think there's some progressive activists I would say he shouldn't even be seated in Congress. Look, the people of Iowa elected him and they sent him to Congress, but the congressional Republicans don't have to play nice. Why have they been continuing to play nice?

TAPPER: Something else that's causing some consternation in Congress, quite different I should note is the Democratic group that helped Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, win her primary challenge over the incumbent Joe Crowley, has targeted its first Democrat wants to take on in the next cycle, Congressman Henry Cuellar. Ocasio-Cortez has not weighed in on the group's decision but she does support primarying other Democratic incumbents.

It's a headache that the party doesn't want to deal with, and we've seen there was a story in "Politico" of people sniping at her, mostly we should point out anonymously, which is not the bravest thing in the world. But she is ruffling some feathers.

SANDERS: I think she is ruffling feathers. Look, young people always ruffle feathers when they show up.

TAPPER: That's you, Symone.

SANDERS: I do take a special -- look, they got text messages today by sweet something out earlier, OK? I'm ruffling feathers as we speak.

But I do think there's something to be said and I talk about this often. And you're -- if you're an activist and you come into a space that is not traditionally a, quote-unquote, activist space, you come in -- you're an activist now, you're a legislator. There, you have to legislate.

Like I don't want my members of Congress to just be out there protesting and don't give me no legislation. So, I think Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes, a congresswoman, she is trying to balance that. But then you have outside groups like the Justice Democrats, their job is not to be legislators. Their job as -- their job is to -- they want to primary people they think are not serving progressive cause as well.

I don't think it's fair to put this all on her. Look, she hasn't said anything, put this on the Justice Democrats. But there is something to be said about playing nice with your peers and building consensus, and I think she sees --

(CROSSTALK)

AGUILAR: Why does she want to primary Henry Cuellar?

SANDERS: She never said she does.

TAPPER: She has not taken a position.

AGUILAR: Well, that group wants to target him because he's a moderate Democrat. So, there's no room -- I mean, you have all these groups that are becoming very active moving the party to the extreme left and you have somebody like Henry Cuellar who's been an outstanding legislator, defending Democratic principles but always trying to negotiate with Republicans, certainly on immigration I think he's been very good and that's why he's been targeted because he's moderate.

SANDERS: But Justice Democrats say they want to target him because he has an A rating from the NRA. He votes with the Republicans more than 69 percent of the time.

And so, I'm not saying I agree. I am just putting their position on the table. But the Justice Democrats, I want to remind you, are not the Democratic National Committee.

AGUILAR: I know, but it's a sign that the party's moving to the left.

(CROSSTALK)

POWERS: There are people in the Democratic Party who hold very left positions and they're people who don't hold left positions, and Nancy Pelosi who is the leader of the Democratic Party has been very open to all different kinds of Democrats. So, that's not -- it's not actually the position of the Democratic Party.

And as you point out, this is an activist group. This is what they do. These are their priorities and they're welcome to do it.

It's not --

AGUILAR: You don't think many Democrats who used to be more moderate are embracing the candidates from the left?

POWERS: I think moderates in general on both parties have a much harder time today than they did in the past, but I think that that Nancy Pelosi, even when it came to abortion, she had said I'm fine with pro-life Democrats. She used them to get Obamacare. It's not -- that's her position.

TAPPER: Is this basically just the left's version of the Tea Party challenge --

CARPENTER: Yes. I'm like, what's wrong with this? My philosophy, for any sitting member of Congress, your seat is never safe. You should always be challenged from the right , from the left.

So, I love contested primaries. I think the more, the merrier. These people should be challenged. No one should feel entitled to their seat because, well, I'm the Democrat or the Republican, I vote the right way. Forget that. So welcome to the party, Democrats.

TAPPER: All right. I like that.

Incredible. After being kidnapped 88 days ago, 13-year old Jayme Closs has been found alive. It's an incredible story and we're just moments from possibly learning how she escaped from her captor all on her own. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:43:59] TAPPER: We're back with the world lead. The U.S. drawdown in Syria now underway. Some American military

equipment is being removed from the war-torn country. But at this point, it's unclear if any U.S. troops have pulled out.

CNN's chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward is in northern Syria for us right now.

Clarissa, what's going on on the ground right now where you are?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, for the last couple of days, we've been driving around this part of northeastern Syria. We have seen several U.S. military convoys potentially carrying military hardware, though it's difficult to say where exactly they were headed.

We know from the U.S. military that they are starting the process of that drawdown, starting to remove some of the equipment here. No word yet on whether they're removing troops yet. But, of course, they're not likely to share that with us when they do because of security concerns.

But make no mistake, Jake, this is going to be a big operation. There are at least seven significantly sized U.S. bases here, a number of smaller U.S. bases. Dismantling all of them is going to take a lot of time, a lot of effort, and potentially a lot of people.

We're hearing that they're actually going to have to move troops in here, first to move some of the equipment out of the country. So this is going to take some time but yes we have seen the beginning, some movement on the ground. Those U.S. military convoys here in northeastern Syria, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Clarissa, there have been so many conflicting messages about the U.S. withdrawal from Syria. They've gone from our troops are coming home now, to they're going to come in home within 30 days, to come home within 120 days. Then Bolton said that U.S. groups aren't going to leave until certain political conditions are met by Turkey. You've been to Syria more than a dozen times, how is this incoherence affecting American allies in the fight against Isis?

WARD: I don't think it's an exaggeration to say it's been pretty devastating for the U.S. this principle allies on the ground here in northern Syria. Those are the Kurdish fighters who got (AUDIO GAP) Democratic forces who were fighting and dying on the ground in the fight against Isis, Jake. And these Kurdish people are extremely concerned about what happens when the U.S. pulls out.

The neighboring country here is Turkey. Turkey views these Kurdish fighters as an existential terrorist threat and they have major concerns that there will be a massacre or a bloodbath once the U.S. leaves. They want to see some measure of protection, some guarantee that once the U.S. goes they will have their backs. But so far what they're getting are mixed messages and incoherence.

I think there's an attempt on the face of it when you talk to officials to try to put some kind of an optimistic spin on things to say OK negotiations are continuing. We're optimistic that the U.S. will protect us. But when you go out and talk to people on the streets here, Jake, and keep in mind that almost every family here has lost someone or know someone who has been killed in the fight, there is a very real sense that the future is extremely frightening and they don't know any longer if they can count on the U.S. for any protection, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Clarissa Ward on the ground for us in northern Syria thank you so much. Please stay safe. Our "NATIONAL LEAD" now. Any moment now the sheriff's office in Barron County Wisconsin is going to update the condition of 13-year old Jayme Closs who was found alive after vanishing without a trace almost three months ago. It's an incredible tale of resilience and survival.

Closs was abducted in October after her parents were brutally murdered in their home in northern Wisconsin. It remains a mystery how Closs escaped but amazingly she also led authorities to her alleged 21-year- old captor Jake Thomas Patterson who has now been charged formally with murder and kidnapping. CNN's Ryan Young picks up the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS FITZGERALD, SHERIFF, BARRON COUNTY: It's amazing the will of that 13-year-old girl to survive and escape.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's the Barren County Sheriff telling the world how Jayme Closs was found alive after she was kidnapped and her parents murdered in their Wisconsin home. 88 days since she disappeared and almost 70 miles away, she approached a couple walking their dog.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I first saw her, I said, oh you know, she run away, did somebody just dump her off here because she didn't have coats or gloves or -- and then when she told me who she was, I figured she must have left in a hurry.

YOUNG: That woman took Jayme to a nearby home.

KRISTIN KASINSKAS, HELPED JAYME AFTER SHE WAS FOUND: I absolutely knew it was her. We've seen her picture a million times around here. She looked exactly the same as she did in her picture, a little bit thinner I would say.

PETER KASINKAS: Genie walked in and said this is Jayme Closs and call 911. I was in absolute shock.

YOUNG: That 911 call led police to Jayme Closs and led them to arrest 21-year-old Jake Patterson, charged with her kidnapping and with the murder of her parents. The authorities say there are no other suspects.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In cases like this we often need a big break and it was Jayme herself who gave us that break.

YOUNG: One of the women who helped said Jayme shared details about her captor. K. KASINSKAS: She said that this person usually hides her or hides

her when others are near or when he has to leave the household.

YOUNG: So many questions remain. How did she escape her captor? Why did Patterson target her in the first place?

FITZGERALD: We do believe Jayme was the only target. I can tell you that the subject planned his actions and took many proactive steps to hide his identity from law enforcement and the general public. For now the family is just glad to have her home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been awesome and we couldn't -- we could have never done it without the community.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was pulled over by our local sheriff. Amazing.

YOUNG: Kristin Kasinskas who called 911 to tell police that Closs was alive taught the suspect at a local middle school.

K. KASINSKAS: I don't really remember a whole lot about Jake. I had him as a middle school student in science class, very quiet kid, smart. I don't really -- I didn't really keep up with him after he left Northwood.

YOUNG: While her aunt shared the family's relief that her niece had been finally found.

[16:50:04] JENNIFER SMITH, JAYME'S GODMOTHER: Oh Jayme, Aunt Jen can't wait to come and give you that big hug and hold you tight because we're not going to let you go.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YOUNG: We've been digging into Jake Patterson's background. The man charged with kidnapping and murder and it appears that he worked at the same turkey store, the Jennie-O Turkey store that her parents worked at. So he apparently quit the first day he was working. That was three years ago. So that is a new development here. Jake, I can tell you, those aunts were just happy to have her back. They said they cannot wait to put their arms around her.

They also said there's a plan in place for where she will live later on. They didn't want to share it with us. Hopefully we'll learn more at this news conference in the next 15 minutes or so because there's so many questions that have to be answered like the motive in this case.

TAPPER: All right, Ryan, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Coming up, it's not just who they're wearing, it's why they're wearing. A new CNN documentary about how first lady fashion has marked the moment and changed history. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: Breaking news in the "NATIONAL LEAD" now. Just moments ago the new Republican Governor in Florida Ron DeSantis suspended embattled Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. The move after his department's much-criticized response to the Parkland massacre last February. You may recall this exchange with Israel from State of the Union a few days after the shooting last year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Are you really not taking any responsibility for the multiple red flags that were brought to the attention of the Broward Sheriff's Office about this shooter before the incident whether it was people near him, close to him calling the --

SCOTT ISRAEL, SHERIFF, BROWARD COUNTY: Jake, I can -- Jake, I can only take responsibility for what I knew about. I exercised my due diligence. I've given amazing leadership to this agency.

TAPPER: Amazing leadership?

ISRAEL: I've worked -- yes, Jake. This is -- there's a lot of things we've done throughout. This is -- you don't measure a person's leadership by a deputy not going into -- these deputies receive the training they needed --

TAPPER: Maybe you measure somebody's leadership by whether or not they protect the community --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: February 14, 2018, on Valentine's Day, a gunman killed 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Sheriff Israel has been assailed for the training of a deputy on his watch who did not go into the building and instructed others responding to also stay outside, not to mention complaints about the gunman before the shooting not having met with adequate police response.

Turning to our "POP CULTURE LEAD" now. Since Jackie O Grace the White House with her tailored suits and oversized glasses, first ladies have been revered as style icons using fashion as a window into their personalities and at times advance their political agendas. Ahead of the new CNN original series American style which premieres this Sunday. CNN's Kate Bennett explores how some of the most prolific first ladies have used their style to send a message.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY, UNITED STATES: I wish people would focus on what I do, not what I wear.

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: A fair request but not always easy when like it or not what a first lady wears has political messaging of its own. That I really don't care, do you jacket Melania Trump wore to and from a trip to the border or stilettos heading out of town to help with her hurricane relief or even that pith helmet in Africa. Clothing that stirred controversy but used thoughtfully fashion diplomacy can be a help. Trump's (INAUDIBLE) to middle eastern style Saudi Arabia, yellow for

friendship in Helsinki, and (INAUDIBLE) Dolce and Gabbana in Italy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: United States elected its 35th president in 1960.

BENNETT: It was Jackie Kennedy who ushered in using first lady style to create a feeling showing women sheik simplicity was part of Camelot and America followed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to ask you about your wardrobe. I'm guessing about 60 grand?

MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: Actually this is a J. Crew ensemble.

BENNETT: Approachability and accessibility, Michelle Obama dressed as a realistic image to a working mom appealing to a broad base with moderately priced outfits reflecting the tighter economic times of the country proving that she was paying attention to the political climate.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BENNETT: So whether or not it is the right thing to do talking about first lady's fashion, people are going to do it. This is part of their strategy. This is part of you know, what we see for them. It's messaging, it's strategy and all of those things. And sometimes we do it for the president too, but mostly for the first lady.

TAPPER: Well that's what's I'm going to ask. You're digging in the first lady's fashion. Sometimes the presidents make a fashion pick. the Washington Post Robin Givhan did a thing about -- Givhan did a thing about what Trump wore to the border.

BENNETT: Disaster Garban.

TAPPER: Disaster Garban, and there was Obama with his audacity of taupe suit. Are you looking into that as well?

BENNETT: Sure. We do that -- I mean, I do. I think of what someone wears whether we like it or not like I said is something that reflects who they are. It's a message that you're sending right off the bat, right off the top. You know, the Obama suit thing got a lot of play, of course, the audacity of taupe and that became a meme, but people are really looking at things like Donald Trump in his oversized suits and his elongated ties.

And it's true Robin did write in the Washington Post on the front page of the Style section about his disaster, his white cap, his jacket sort of looked a lot like his hurricane garb sending a message that this is a crisis. This is what I wear to a crisis situation. This is what I'm wearing to a crisis border situation. So certainly these things matter, Jake.

TAPPER: All right --

BENNETT: And I'll see you this weekend.

TAPPER: I appreciate it. I'm looking forward to watching. Kate Bennett, thank you so much. Be sure to tune in to CNN this Sunday night for the new original series of American Style. It premieres at 9:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN. But first be sure to check out CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" on Sunday morning. My guest will be Democratic Senator Mark Warner, head of -- rather, Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Republican Senator Ron Johnson, Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.