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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Iran Vows Retaliation; Biden vs. Buttigieg; Church Shooting in Texas. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired December 30, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:56]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: In our national lead, we're hearing firsthand this afternoon from the hero who took down the gunman who murdered two people in a Texas church.

It took just six seconds for the churchgoer, Jack Wilson, who does volunteer security for the church, to fire the fatal shot and stop what was a horrific act, but could have been much, much worse.

The horrifying scene was caught on the church's livestream. We must warn you ahead of time this report we are about to show you contains some disturbing images from the crime scene, as CNN's Dianne Gallagher reports from Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A normal Sunday church service turned deadly, a horrifying moment. A shooter opened fire.

The West Freeway Church of Christ's livestream showing the gunman seated in the back pew. He stands up, speaks to a man, then pulls out a gun and fires twice. Two armed church members react, one killing the gunman.

Jack Wilson, head of security at the church, is credited with taking down the gunman.

JACK WILSON, SHOT GUNMAN: You train, but you hope you never have to go to that extreme.

GALLAGHER: Following a shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, two years ago, state lawmakers passed legislation allowing handguns in places of worship and churches to form security teams.

KEN PAXTON, TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL: If there's any church in this state and in America that was prepared for this, it was this church.

GALLAGHER: Authorities are still learning more about the gunman who has been described as relatively transient by the FBI.

PAXTON: My understanding, he is more of a loner and probably going to be very difficult to determine exactly what his motivations were, other than maybe mental illness.

GALLAGHER: The victims, two men who simply went to worship on a Sunday, murdered in just six horrific seconds in a church.

SARAH WALLACE, DAUGHTER OF VICTIM: He always wanted us to be in the church. He was always my role model.

GALLAGHER: One of them identified as Tony Wallace, deacon and longtime congregant of the church.

WALLACE: He would say God wanted him more than we did. They couldn't handle his perfectness here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GALLAGHER: Now, the other victim killed in this church was 67-year- old Richard White.

The gunman 43-year-old, Keith Thomas Kinnunen, he was somebody who had quite a criminal past, including violent crimes and weapons crimes across the country. We spoke with his sister, Jake, and she says that her brother had been living on the streets for some time. She didn't know what caused him to do this, but says that she doesn't believe it's political in nature.

The congregation will finish their service later this evening.

TAPPER: Dianne Gallagher in the El Paso area, thank you so much.

Pete Buttigieg says Joe Biden made one of the worst foreign policy decisions of his lifetime. Now Biden's responding next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:38:09]

TAPPER: In our 2020 lead today: Former Vice President Joe Biden is hitting back after Mayor Pete Buttigieg slammed Biden's vote as a senator to authorize the Iraq War.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I certainly respect the vice president. But this is an example of why years in Washington is not always the same thing as judgment.

He supported the worst foreign policy decision made by the United States in my lifetime, which was the decision to invade Iraq.

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I put my foreign policy record against anybody in the country right now.

And God love Pete. I respect the -- his service and his willingness to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Let's chat about this.

This was an effective line of attack when Obama used it against Hillary Clinton in 2008. Not so much when Bernie Sanders used it against Hillary Clinton in 2016.

NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Well, it does point to the very interesting generational divide presented by Biden and Buttigieg.

And I think the most interesting fact is that Buttigieg is a millennial who mainly attracts older white voters. And so he needs to be pulling from the Biden coalition and take some votes from there.

But he also needs to do better with -- right now, he's only polling about 2 percent with people under the age of 35, with his own generation, so taking that progressive, hard left stance of anti-war could potentially help them in that regard.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And years of hindsight will give all of us great judgment, right? We can all look back and make different decisions if we had the benefit of hindsight.

The reality is, if we go back to that time of that vote was made, we were in post-9/11. We were concerned about weapons of mass destruction. We were concerned about terrorism. Three-fourths of the senators did vote for the invasion of Iraq. So you have to take that into consideration.

And Joe Biden has walked it back a bit, in saying that this was not the best decision, in hindsight.

I think Pete Buttigieg is strong. I think he's got a good chance. I think he's -- the momentum is in the right direction. This, I don't think, is a good level of attack and a good lane for attack, simply because Biden has walked it back.

[16:40:03]

TAPPER: Biden just said something that I think will surprise you.

He was asked if he would consider a Republican running mate. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: The answer is, I would, but I can't think of one now.

No, there's some really decent Republicans that are out there still. But here's the problem right now, are the well-known ones. They have got to step up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Boy, I'm not sure how the grassroots is going to take that one. JANE COASTON, VOX: Well, I think that one of the things about Biden

that both infuriates and attracts is that Biden's -- the idea behind Biden is we can hearken back to the halcyon days of 2014.

Like, there was an easier time, when things were better six, five years ago. And I think that one of the things Biden really represents is this idea of returning to normalcy, a normalcy as defined by Joe Biden, but normalcy nonetheless.

And I think for some older voters, that is very appealing, but for a lot of younger voters, I just keep thinking about I'm 32. September 11 happened my freshman year of high school. We have been at war that entire time.

And so I think it's really interesting that younger voters are responding to Joe Biden saying things like that. Like, we are not dealing in normal times. We are not dealing in kind of the Tip O'Neill, Kennedy friendship times.

We're dealing with the era of Donald Trump, the era of purportedly normal, to people, congressional Republicans tweeting things and saying things essentially to kind of impress Trump and impress Trump's voters.

So I think that, while Biden's appeal to normalcy, as Biden defines it, is very appealing to a lot of voters, I think, for younger voters, people kind of around my age, kind of see that as the kind of the return to more of the same.

TAPPER: Yes.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Biden's been running -- when he talks about bipartisanship, he's running a general election message that does not fit this time and that just basically ignores the fact that most of the Democratic Party is to the left of him right now.

He's assuming that, if he's the nominee, he's going to have enough of a groundswell behind him that it doesn't matter, that he can do that, so he doesn't have to appeal to the Bernie voters, appeal to the Elizabeth Warren voters

The Iraq War, I think he's probably the only person left on that stage that actually took a vote for the Iraq War at this point. So it's a unique position for him to have, especially when Buttigieg is going ideologically after voters that are kind of in the Biden camp too, running more towards the moderate middle than to the Democratic base of the party that is far more liberal now.

But just generally speaking, who's he going to -- he's right that there's nobody out there right now, because none of the Republicans that are no longer than GOP really couldn't draw people.

TAPPER: And as Buttigieg prepares for his last day as the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, later this week, CNN's Abby Phillip is going to take a look at how his record could both help and hurt his White House bid. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK NEAL, SOUTH BEND BUSINESSMAN: What are we doing to promote business? I always like to think of trains as being commerce, right? That's the sound of commerce.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pete Buttigieg's city, South Bend, Indiana, is vibrant again.

NEAL: For many folks, that's a sign of sort of the beginning comeback of South Bend.

PHILLIP: The Studebaker plant that was once the heart of this Midwestern industrial town now at the center of its comeback story.

During Buttigieg's eight years as mayor, he not only led what he calls a turnaround city, but also deployed to Afghanistan, announced he's gay and is now setting his sights on the White House.

BUTTIGIEG: South Bend is back.

PHILLIP: His small town accomplishments, 3.7 percent unemployment, nearly $200 million in private investment downtown, a reinvigorated stadium, and tackling urban blight, are a big part of his presidential campaign.

BUTTIGIEG: Washington experience is not the only experience that matters.

PHILLIP: Then there's what's happening outside of downtown South Bend.

TYREE BONDS, BROTHER OF ERIC LOGAN: I mean, they don't, 100 percent don't care about the community. They care about what's going on downtown.

PHILLIP: Tyree Bonds lost his brother, Eric Logan, killed by police this summer, and sparking racial tensions across Buttigieg's city, now following him on the campaign trail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why should you be president if it doesn't -- like, if you didn't do a good job in South Bend?

BUTTIGIEG: So, let's be really clear. Most people in South Bend believe I did a good job.

PHILLIP: But his black supporters here feel their voices are being drowned out, literally. This meeting ended in chaos, with City Council member Sharon McBride, who supports Buttigieg, interrupted by protesters.

SHARON MCBRIDE, SOUTH BEND COMMON COUNCIL: I was born and raised in the hood. I love my city.

PHILLIP (on camera): This is personal for you.

MCBRIDE: It's personal. So it's very hurtful. But I love what I do.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Bonds was there too.

BONDS: But what he said was the truth. Who put them in a place to say they was our black leaders? Because they was not our black leaders.

PHILLIP: Those close to him say this summer's protests changed Buttigieg.

[16:45:00]

KAREEMAH FOWLER, FORMER CITY CLERK: I think that was absolutely a learning experience for Pete I think that he welcomes and maybe needed, if he's going to be the president of the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP: And, Jake, we also spoke to some South Bend residents here, and particularly in the poorer parts of town, who felt like the economic boom wasn't reaching them.

At the same time, Pete Buttigieg is being preceded -- or is being succeeded by his former chief of staff who just won the mayoral race and will take over on January 1, a sign that -- Buttigieg says, that South Bend residents want his work to continue in the new mayor -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Abby Phillip in the fourth biggest city in Indiana, South Bend, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Be sure to ring in 2020 right here on CNN with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen. "New Year's Eve Live" starts at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up: Iran now promising consequences after U.S. strikes target an Iranian-backed militia.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:27]

TAPPER: In our world lead, Iran now threatening retaliation after the U.S. military conducted a series of strikes on an Iranian-backed militia that operates in both Iraq and Syria.

The Pentagon said the militia was involved in attacks on Americans and described the operation as -- quote -- "precision defensive strikes," claiming that at least 25 members of the militia were killed.

CNN's Ryan Browne is at the Pentagon for us.

Now, Ryan, what type of targets were specifically hit?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, Jake, we're being told that the targets were selected in part because of their connections to some of these attacks that have been conducted by this Hezbollah, which the U.S. says is trained, equipped and organized by Iran.

Now, the targets were, we're told, a headquarters and operations center and weapons storage facilities. And when they hit the weapons storage facilities, there were these secondary explosions, kind of underscoring how much munitions were being kept there, munitions that the U.S. bullies were in part responsible for some of these complex attacks on U.S. bases, one of which led to the death of an American contractor, prompting these strikes.

TAPPER: Ryan, what more do we know about this group specifically?

BROWNE: Well, the group is connected to Iran. It has been for some time it's been involved in Iraq and Syria on Iran's behalf.

But it is also ostensibly part of the Iranian -- or Iraq security force. And this has really complicated the U.S.-Iraq relationship. Iraq has criticized the U.S. strikes very publicly, saying it was a violation of their sovereignty.

And it all begs the question, what's to become of the 5,000 U.S. troops currently in Iraq? Will they be allowed to stay in the wake of these strikes? Will additional restrictions be placed upon them?

And, again, I think the U.S. will be watching closely whether Iran, its proxies or anyone else takes retaliation steps of their own in the wake of the strikes.

TAPPER: All right, Ryan Browne at the Pentagon, thank you so much.

Coming up, a top Democrat who says he has no doubt why President Trump released the aid to Ukraine.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:56:49]

TAPPER: And we're back with our pop culture lead today.

On Wednesday night, CNN will air a riveting new documentary about music legend Linda Ronstadt, whose Grammy Award-winning singing career sadly came to an end due to a rare health condition.

Ronstadt spoke recently with CNN's Anderson Cooper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Hearing the diagnosis, how -- what is that like?

LINDA RONSTADT, MUSICIAN: Well, I was shocked. That wasn't what I was expecting. I had this tremor. And I went to the doctor. And I was expecting that he was going to say that I had a pinched nerve, and they could fix it.

And he said, well, I think you might have Parkinson's disease. And I was totally shocked.

It took him about a year after that to come to the diagnosis, and then took a little bit longer to come to supranuclear palsy.

COOPER: Initially, they thought it was Parkinson's, and then they realized it's this other, more...

RONSTADT: And it progresses -- there's different ways that you walk that they can -- and then I also read that they can diagnose Parkinson's really early by listening to your voice.

Since my voice has been recorded so much of the time, I'd like to see if I was right about starting in 2000, but I'm sure I was, because I know that feeling.

COOPER: It seems particularly cruel to have something that affects your voice first beyond -- before really even anything else.

RONSTADT: It's a strain on my family relations, because some of my family in Tucson are Republicans. And instead of talking about that, we would sing together, and we'd have a great time.

COOPER: Singing is what brought your family together?

RONSTADT: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: So, now that you don't have singing, what...

RONSTADT: Well, now I have to be careful, because we have had so much taken away from us by this administration. And I don't -- I'm not willing to let him take my family relationships away.

My family -- the parts that were Republican were fairly rational Republicans. We don't have that in our current -- current White House.

COOPER: So you can still have family gatherings. It's just a little more strained?

RONSTADT: I try to just hum a little harmony someplace in the corner.

COOPER: To yourself.

RONSTADT: Yes.

COOPER: I have read that you have read a lot about the Weimar Republic in Germany, and you sort of see parallels between then and now. RONSTADT: Well, great parallels.

I mean, the intelligentsia of Berlin and the literati and all the artists were just busy doing their thing. And there were a lot of chances. Hitler rose to power. There were a lot of chances to stop him, and they didn't speak out

And the industrial complex that they could control him once they got him in office. And, of course, he was not controllable. And by the time he got established, he put his own people in place and stacked the courts and did what he had to do to consolidate his power.

And we got Hitler, and he destroyed Germany. He destroyed centuries of intellectual history forward and backward, the people like Beethoven and Goethe and Thomas Mann became jokes. They became Nazi laughingstocks.

COOPER: I think a lot of people, though, would be surprised to hear comparisons between what happened then and now.

RONSTADT: If you read the history, you won't be surprised. It's exactly the same.

You find a common enemy for everybody to hate. When -- I was sure that Trump was going to get elected the day announced, and I said, he's going to -- it's going to be like Hitler, and the Mexicans are the new Jews.

And, sure enough, that's what he delivered, you know?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: "Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice" premieres New Year's Day at 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific only on CNN.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at @THELEADCNN.

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