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The Lead with Jake Tapper

New Christie Troubles; Hillary Clinton's Enemies List?; Hillary's "Hit List"; A Lighter, Leaner Pick-Up?

Aired January 13, 2014 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Move the cones. A whole new lane of trouble is opening up for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The politics lead. While his Bridge-gate scandal remains prime headline bate, Governor Christie is now being hit from a different direction with another investigation. Did he misuse Hurricane Sandy relief money to promote himself? Or are Democrats smelling blood seeking to chum up the waters?

Also in politics, the woman pundits love to put up against Christie in a hypothetical 2016 matchup, Hillary Clinton, a new book claims she kept a list of people she considered Benedict Arnolds in 2008. One is from her own party. Who was on that list?

And the pop culture lead, "Wolf of Wall Street," "12 Years a Slave," "Dallas Buyer's Club," a huge haul at the Golden Globes for -- quote, unquote -- "true stories." But how closely do movies like these play with the truth?

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with the politics lead and a CNN exclusive. The traffic metaphors come all too easily in midst of the George Washington Bridge scandal enveloping New Jersey Governor and potential 2016 presidential hopeful Chris Christie.

While many are still rubbernecking at the political wreck his close aides apparently created through a petty vendetta, Christie's problems are turning into a pileup. OK, enough traffic metaphors.

Moving on, as CNN reported first, the Republican is now under a federal investigation into whether he misused Hurricane Sandy relief funds, specifically on an ad campaign to attract tourists back to the Sandy-ravaged Jersey Shore, which just happened to feature Christie, his wife, their kids, while he sought reelection.

Now, the timing of this could not be worse for Christie. Democrats in both the state Assembly and state Senate have announced new committees to investigate the traffic debacle on the G.W. Bridge apparently orchestrated by aides close to Christie.

The governor did apologize at great length and fired two aides who are implicated. But these new developments may indicate his new trouble may only have just begun.

Let's bring in CNN investigative correspondent Chris Frates.

He wrote the story -- Chris.

Hey, Jake.

CHRIS FRATES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're now looking into another controversy of Governor Chris Christie's. This has to do with federal taxpayer money that was for Hurricane Sandy relief.


FRATES (voice-over): When Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey, Chris Christie led from the trenches. And his skillful response to the devastating superstorm rocketed him into political superstardom.

But a new federal investigation into how the New Jersey governor spent some of the Sandy relief money could threaten to wash away the foundation of his political brand. CNN has learned that federal investigators will examine the state's $25 million tourism marketing campaign, a campaign that was paid for with Sandy recovery money.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Jersey Shore is open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The word is spreading.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Because we're stronger than the storm.


FRATES: A campaign that featured Christie and his family during an election year.

Democratic Congressman Frank Pallone, a vocal Christie critic, requested the investigation and federal officials tell CNN it's now moving ahead. But Pallone says this is not about politics.

REP. FRANK PALLONE (D), NEW JERSEY: This was money that could have directly been used for Sandy recovery. And, as you know, many of my constituents still haven't gotten the money that is owed them, you know, to rebuild their homes or to put their -- you know, to raise their homes or to help.

FRATES: Pallone says promoting New Jersey tourism after the superstorm was a good idea, but he has a big question about how much taxpayer money was spent to make those ads. The winning bid, a $4.7 million campaign featuring Christie and family. The next lower bid that lost out was nearly half the price at $2.5 million and wouldn't have feature United States the governor, according to Pallone.

The ads caused controversy as they hit the airwaves while Christie was running for reelection. Christie's opponents slammed him, arguing it gave him the incumbent governor unfair advantage. And Senator Rand Paul addressed it at a hearing in November. SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I think there might be a conflict of interest there. You know, that's a real problem. And that's why when people try to do good and trying to use taxpayers' money wisely, they're offense to see our money spent on political ads. You know, that's just offensive.

FRATES: At the time, Christie aides said the winning ad provided more value. And, today, the governor's office released a statement saying: "Federal agency reviews are routine and standard operating procedure to ensure that funds are distributed fairly. We're confident that any review will show that the ads were a key part in helping New Jersey get back on its feet after being struck by the worst storm in state history."

But after an initial review of the Sandy relief spending, the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Housing and Urban Development has concluded that there is enough evidence to launch a full-scale investigation.

PALLONE: Taxpayer dollars that could have been used for Sandy relief were used for ads promoting the governor, because he was in them with his family, during an election campaign.

FRATES: Christie's office questions the timing of the investigation. Indeed, it couldn't come at a worse time for the scandal-plagued New Jersey Republican. Christie's already facing two probes into whether his staff tied up traffic near the country's busiest bridge to punish a Democratic mayor who refused to endorse him.

But as bad as the George Washington Bridge scandal has been for Christie, if the investigation finds he improperly spent Sandy funds, it could get far worse, tarnishing the signature achievement that has helped propel him toward the White House.


FRATES: Now, the HUD Inspector General's Office confirms they're investigating, but it will likely take months before a full report will be released to the public, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Chris Frates, thank you so much.

As we mentioned, Governor Christie now has a number of investigations mounting against his administration.

Let's bring in Louis Greenwald. He's Democratic majority leader for the New Jersey Assembly.

Mr. Greenwald, thanks so much for joining us.

We will talk about the Sandy funds investigation in a second, but first I want to put up a new poll that came out a short time ago from Monmouth University. It shows a six-point drop in Christie's approval rating among the people New Jersey, though the margin of error is more than four points.

It doesn't really seem like he's taking much of a hit in the Garden State. Your response?

LOUIS GREENWALD (D), NEW JERSEY ASSEMBLY MAJORITY LEADER: Well, his popularity as shown in the election is incredibly strong. I think it's part of why, as you heard on the ads for Sandy, that he promoted himself through those ads, as he was talking about Sandy recovery.

The reality is, though, that this is just the beginning of these investigations. I think the governor's established a level of credibility. And when he spoke last week and said he had nothing to do with this, I think the public wants to believe him. And, at this point, there's no evidence to the contrary.

TAPPER: Jim Geraghty, a conservative writer at "The National Review," he skeptically called this new probe amazingly convenient timing, the word, the idea that the Sandy funding investigation comes right after the bridge scandal. Is there anything to that? Are Democrats sensing weakness and deciding to go after some things that they have wondered about for some time or some weaknesses in the governor's armor?

GREENWALD: Well, this is a federal probe, so I'm learning about it much like you all are, as it's being reported in the news today. So I don't believe that this is certainly not any orchestrated effort by Democrats in the state of New Jersey.

I also think as I listened to your lead-in with the story that they have been looking at this through HUD at the federal level for a period of time as an inquiry and have decided based on what they saw in the inquiry to take it to a full investigation.

TAPPER: So, in "The Star-Ledger" this morning, two Democratic mayors of beach towns, Belmar and Point Pleasant, expressed support for ads and Christie being in them, one of the mayors saying he was the face of Sandy relief, it made sense to make him the face of these ads. What did you think of that?

GREENWALD: Well, I think, look, that's the real question. Was he the face of Sandy relief or was he the face of Sandy relief because of the ads that they ran?

There's no doubt that New Jersey needed to invest in telling the public that we were open for business. Tourism and our beaches are a $40-billion-a-year industry for us. It's the backbone of our economy. It's a treasure that's critically important.

That money needed to be spent on advertisements to tell the world that New Jersey is a vacation and destination place. Was it necessary to spend the money to promote the governor? Is that what -- it was done? I assume the investigation will review that. It will determine who did the ad, how much was the ad, what was the impact of the ad, did it result in tourism coming to the state, was there a better offer or better promotional piece that would have done something different without the governor's involvement, but that would have had an even greater impact on tourism?

But at the end of the day, we needed to tell people that New Jersey was open for business. We were on the road to recovery. And we were ready to welcome them as families have come to New Jersey to build memories on their vacations for generations.

TAPPER: But, sir, the Obama administration approved the ad campaign, the "Stronger Than the Storm" campaign.


And, again, we're learning about this literally as we go through the news today. I was not even aware, as that was federal money that had come in, that that type of approval, maybe it was required, maybe it wasn't. I don't know what the process would be for such approval.

Again, I don't know that the governor needed to spend that in order to promote himself and his family. His popularity ratings were obviously very high, as you even referenced in the Monmouth poll today. But the reality is that there's something that has piqued the interest of the federal authorities to dig further here and go beyond just an inquiry and to look at what they are considering a full-blown investigation.

TAPPER: And, of course, former Democratic Governor Jim McGreevey appeared in some tourism spots in 2004 with his now ex-wife and daughter.

I want to go now back to the Bridge-gate scandal, if we could, sir, new investigations into the whole Bridge-gate controversy, scandal. The Assembly already released 2,000 panel pages of documents, nothing indicating that Christie knew directly. Do you know of a smoking gun? Is there definite proof that Christie knew of this? Or do you believe there's one to find? When does this end?

GREENWALD: Well, there's no proof that the governor had any knowledge of this. All we have at this point is his statements that he knew nothing about it. He did not literally know about it, in his words, until 8:50 the morning before his press conference.

I think what we do know is that we have had two people resign from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. We have had his deputy chief of staff be fired and the governor himself has replaced his campaign manager and asked him not to proceed with any involvement in the RNC.

What we also know is that the governor himself after looking at this has said that he is going to have a full investigation of his own executive office to see who knew what. Really, that's where the legislature is right now. We're reviewing the documents. We're reviewing the e-mails. We know one thing for certain.

I think speculation is certainly that the woman, Bridget Kelly, would not have thought of this idea on her own, would not have come up with the idea to close the traffic lanes, would not have come up with the idea to fabricate a study. The reality is that came from someone else.

I think the greatest thing that could happen next is, if the governor truly wants to get to the root of this, what I have asked for, what other members have asked for is that we provide those e-mails with complete transparency, that we really start to look at who was on those e-mails and who might have known about this prior to.

We know clearly there was an abuse of power. We don't know where that abuse of power is rooted. We don't know how deep it goes. And we will only find out through the cooperation and the transparency on those e-mails.

TAPPER: All right, New Jersey Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.

GREENWALD: Thank you for having me. Thank you.

TAPPER: We have breaking news now on new Obamacare enrollment numbers that were released just a few minutes ago. And they show that while the numbers improved dramatically in December, the administration is nowhere near hitting the benchmarks it set before enrollment began.

In all, more than two million have signed up for health insurance through the federal and state exchanges. But of that two million, only 24 percent are between the ages of 18 and 34. That's very significant and a far cry from the administration's goal of 40 percent enrollment among young adults.

And while the White House is touting a total of six million people have enrolled in the marketplace and Medicaid combined, that is a bit misleading when you look at the big picture. You see, many of the Medicaid enrollees were people who were just renewing their plans, meaning their coverage had nothing to do with Obamacare.

Joining me now with a closer look at these numbers is CNN senior White House correspondent Brianna Keilar.

Brianna, what do you make of this release?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: These may be some of the most important numbers we have gotten so far because they don't just how many people have enrolled. They tell us who these people are.

And young people are key to keeping the costs down, because they are, generally speaking, cheaper to ensure. They're supposed to offset older people who are more expensive to ensure. So, when you look at the breakdown here, the expectation at this point was that the young folks, 18 to 34 years old, would make up for about 40 percent of those who have applied.

That was the goal. We're learning now that it's about 24 percent, so about a quarter. That is far short. You talk to administration officials, you talk to White House officials, and they say, yes, but it's still a sizable chunk. This is sustainable. Outside health policy experts look at this and they say there may be some cost increases because of it. For instance, Kaiser says it would be about 2.5 percent increased cost in premiums.

But on the flip side, Jake, these numbers are new, so we're waiting to hear from the insurance industry which obviously may have a very different take. On the other side of the political aisle, Republicans, for instance, on the Hill are saying this is a bust because the percentage is low. They're also falling short on just how many people they were supposed to sign up, at this point, 2.2 million. The goal at this point was 3.3. million, so they're saying actually they're falling much farther -- they're falling much shorter than they expected to with young people.

TAPPER: All right. And, of course, we still don't know how many have paid those premiums as opposed to just signing up. Thank you, Brianna Keilar. We appreciate it.

Coming up on THE LEAD: keeping political score. A soon-to-be-released book says Hillary Clinton kept a hit list complete with a numbering system for friends-turned-foes. We will tell you who made the list next.

Plus, relief for some who have not been able to use their tap water for days, but are West Virginia residents now confident that it's safe to drink? That's next.


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

It's time for the national lead.

It was a long, thirsty, and probably a bit funky smelling weekend for a huge part of the population of West Virginia -- 300,000 people forbidden from using the water coming out of their own taps for days, for showers or for drinking, out of a fear that a chemical spill may have contaminated water supply.

But today, some relief. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin announcing the "do not use" order is being lifted for certain towns, including downtown Charleston. But it's going to take some time. Some will still be without potable water for days. Once they get the all-clear, people are advised to flush their plumbing systems.

The 7,500-gallon chemical leak came from a company called freedom industries. On Friday, the company's president held a news conference of sorts during which he apologized for the disruptions of so many lives. He's trying to assure those affected that the chemical isn't dangerous and won't result in any three-eyed Simpsons fish. But his demeanor during the short, 10-minute press conference probably failed to win any new fans of Freedom Industries.


GARY SOUTHERN, PRESIDENT, FREEDOM INDUSTRIES: Look, guys, it has been an extremely hard day. I'm having trouble talking at the moment. I would appreciate it if we could wrap this thing up.

REPORTER: Are there no systems in place to alert you of a leak at your facility other than a smell?

SOUTHERN: At this moment in time, I think that's all we have time for. So, thanks for coming. Thanks for your time.

REPORTER: We have more questions -- hey, hey, hey, we're not done --

REPORTER: Minimum time line --


REPORTER: All right, are you with the pr firm --

SOUTHERN: We're working on that right now --

REPORTER: Tonight?

SOUTHERN: Not possible. We're working on that plan. So, thank you.


TAPPER: For any students of public relations out there, that is how not to do it. In fact, after that, Freedom's PR person reportedly decided to stop representing the company yesterday.

Turning to politics news. Spreadsheets aren't meant to be sinister unless you're in the one marked enemies on Hillary Clinton's desk top. When she ended her 2008 presidential bid with a call for supporters to unite behind then-Senator Barack Obama, behind the scenes, Clinton staff stayed busy sketching out a list of lawmakers who had wronged them. That's according to a new book by "Politico's" Jonathan Allen and "The Hill's" Amy Parmes, which details how Clinton senior aides compiled a list of so-called traitors to the campaign. A list that included current Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and the late Senator Ted Kennedy.

For the latest on this, I want to bring in political reporter for "TIME" magazine, Zeke Miller.

Zeke, thanks for joining us.

It's, of course, no secret that politicians keep a favor file. But in the book, Parmes and Allen write, "It would be political malpractice for the Clintons not to keep track of their friends and enemies."

Is this just business as usual, or does this go a little step beyond?

ZEKE MILLER, POLITICAL REPORTER, TIME: Well, it's both business as usual and I think that's a step beyond. You know, just sort of what you -- par for the course with the Clintons. I mean, this is something -- you know, this is the most Clintonian, in fact, they are the best politicians of their generation. They also have -- you know, they've been around just about longer than anybody in terms of playing at that level, in American politics.

So, it makes sense to have long list of favors and shifts to call in and shifts to be called in for them. So, it makes sense they'd have a list this long. What's amazing is that it's been written down, that there's a numbering system, a very detailed numbering system.

TAPPER: The numbering system is what's great. Yes.

MILLER: It's fantastic. I mean, just as you know -- you just wish it was made public were their changes, sort of like regression study on it. I guess some statisticians working on it.

TAPPER: Right.

MILLER: But it makes perfect sense but also reinforces the worst that we learned about the Clinton from the '08 campaign, the politics, the overly competitive side of it that maybe -- that turned a lot of people off just a few years ago.

TAPPER: We should reassure those people on the naughty list who have been named, it's not over yet. You can still be put in the nice list. I mean, that was 2008 when a lot of people gotten the Obama train for a lot of reasons including they thought he was going to win. But if she chooses to run, they can -- they can shift, right, they can -- Claire McCaskill can earn her way back on to nice.

MILLER: Well, she's doing more than earning her way back from nice, so far. She was maybe the first person to endorse Hillary Clinton for president in 2016. Probably, you know, she certainly did it late -- early last year and she's probably said it a few times since 2010. She's --

TAPPER: You think that she's overcompensating? I mean, you're not a psychologist.

MILLER: I'm not in her head here but, you know, looking at the fact pattern, you know, it wouldn't be surprising. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that she's overcompensating, knowing what she did to the Clintons back in 2007.

TAPPER: Specifically, it wasn't just that she endorsed Obama.

MILLER: No, it is that quote, she wouldn't want her daughter near former President Clinton. That's one that hit so -- that rang so true in the Clinton world. So, she has a lot of penance.

TAPPER: Cut like a knife, cut like a knife.

Zeke Miller, thank you so much. We'll -- I'm sure more to come on this list, appreciate it.

Coming up next: a major change for one of the best selling vehicles in America. Why Ford is taking a chance on a major redesign.

Plus, every teenager can now tell their parents there's a scientific reason for them to watch more MTV. Dr. Drew Pinsky will join me to explain, ahead.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. It's time now for our money lead.

This week is the Detroit Auto Show -- a candy store for car enthusiasts. The big three auto makers are there, including General Motors, and it's incoming CEO, Mary Barra, the first woman to lead one of the big three.


MARY BARRA, INCOMING CEO, GENERAL MOTORS: In this business, everything starts and ends with great product. At today's GM, our products are the result of putting the customer at the center of everything we do.


TAPPER: And Barra starts her new gig with some bragging rights. GM vehicles won the show's best car and best truck awards with the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and the Chevrolet Silverado.

But don't call General Motors as the belle of the ball just yet. Ford, a company that's been building trucks since the early 1900s, just came out with a potential game changer.

Joining me now from the Detroit Auto Show is the chief operating officer of Ford, Mark Fields.

Behind you is the new lightweight version of the Ford F-150, which was done -- it was made lightweight by changing parts of the truck to aluminum, which makes it more gas efficient. But the F-150 is a huge chunk of your North America profits. There are some voiced concerns that your customers prefer the durability of steel over aluminum.

How are you going to reassure your customers that this truck is just as tough and why change it?

MARK FIELDS, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, FORD MOTOR CO.: Well, first of all, why change, it is because we continue to listen to our customers. And customers have told us they want increased capability of their vehicle and they want great fuel economy.

So, we're using the North American International Show to introduce basically the reinvention of America's favorite pickup truck. And it is the toughest, smartest, most capable F-series we've ever produced. And as part of that, customers have asked us to make sure that we give them a product that lives up to that built Ford tough image that they expect.

And when you look at the vehicle, it has a high strength steel frame of the vehicle. And we're using a groundbreaking application of high strength aluminum alloy around the entire body of the vehicle which reduces weight, and that allows the customers to tow more, to haul more, to accelerate faster, to stop in shorter distance and get great fuel economy, and get that great durability of built Ford tough that they expect.

TAPPER: Is it cheaper or more expensive than the steel one?

FIELDS: Well, overall, on a pound for pound basis, aluminum is more expensive. But as we look at the volume that we're using, we are having some efficiencies in some of our manufacturing, which allows to offset some of those costs. But overall, we're very excited about presenting this groundbreaking use of a material that actually a lot of our customers are used to. A lot of our customers are trades people. They're used to high strength aluminum alloy in some of their power tools, their ladders, those type of things.

And actually, the vehicle will be more dent and ding resistant than our current F-series, which is made of steel.

TAPPER: I'm sure I expect for most Americans when I say we're very glad that the American auto industry is back and having such a great time. But Detroit is not having a great time. Could Ford and the other U.S. automakers be doing more to help that city that is having such a difficult time now?

FIELDS: Well, it's very important for us to have a healthy Detroit and a healthy southeast Michigan. And we think we're doing our part, not only philanthropically in terms of supporting the city and the area but also economically. We've added thousands of jobs here in the southeast Michigan area over the past two or three years.

And the reason we've been able to do that is because our business is growing. And that has a multiplier effect in the area, because for every -- there are studies that are done. For every hourly job that we create in our plants, there are eight or nine jobs that are created in the community.

So, we're going to stay really focused on growing our business, growing the jobs in the area, and we think that will do a lot to helping the area, recover and get back on its feet.

TAPPER: Mark Fields, thank you so much. We appreciate your time.

FIELDS: Jake, thanks so much.

TAPPER: Coming up next on THE LEAD, Iran now on the clock. A date set for the start of an historic nuclear deal. But could some members of Congress hit the reset button on the president?

Plus, made up characters that never existed. Plot lines that strayed a little too far from the truth. Which based on the true story Golden Globe winners are more Hollywood than fact?