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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Interview With Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers; Nukes in Crimea?; Interview With Jon Stewart; U.S. & China Reach Climate Change Deal; Interview with Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma

Aired November 12, 2014 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Vladimir Putin, as he was putting that shawl around China's first lady, was he also pulling the wool over the eyes of the world?

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The world lead. Putin may have tried to be gallant in Beijing, but evidence suggests he's up to no good on Ukraine's border. Russian tanks potentially are rolling past the brink of war, but does Putin already have the most powerful weapon of mass destruction inside Crimea?

Plus, they wanted to be exactly like these women jihadis and now CNN is learning the three Colorado teen girls who tried to join ISIS allegedly were being given a road map to Syria by one of the terrorist group's most senior commanders.

And our pop culture lead today, America's favorite fake newsman, Jon Stewart, steps out from behind the fake anchor desk to let me ask some questions.

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

We are going to begin today with the world lead and a renewed sense of crisis in Ukraine. It seems that while Vladimir Putin was supposed to be practicing diplomacy and maybe even trying to defrost his icy relationship with President Obama, he might have also been busy brokering back-channel deals and plotting his next land grab.

First, Russia announced a deal to construct eight nuclear reactors inside Iran, Iran, which wants nuclear weapons according to the U.S. government and could be on the verge of a historic deal with the West to not build them, and now NATO reports a convoy of Russian tanks and 43 unmarked troop transports have crossed into neighboring Ukraine.

The cease-fire in Eastern Ukraine, NATO says, is basically over and since Crimea is now a repository for all things Russian military, that could very well lead to nuclear weapons.

And for more on this, I want to bring in CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto.

Jim, does Russia now have nuclear-capable weapons inside Crimea? JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: They best

U.S. assessment is that they have the delivery systems inside Crimea. Specifically, these are TU-22 Tupolev-22 bombers and MiG-34 fighters. It is not clear however if they have nuclear weapons on board those planes or if those planes are deployed there permanently.

But it is viewed nonetheless as a provocation and comes as Russia has also sent in this large convoy carrying heavy weapons into Eastern Ukraine, in effect ending the hard-fought cease-fire negotiated just this past September.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): Russian forces on the move again into Eastern Ukraine, preparations, Ukrainian officials tell CNN, for a new offensive by pro-Russian separatists.

GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE, NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: We have seen columns of Russian equipment, primarily Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops, entering into Ukraine.

SCIUTTO: And NATO says they have observed something even more alarming, Russian warplanes capable of carrying nuclear weapons deployed to Crimea.

Annexed by Russia illegally earlier this year, if confirmed the step could violate multiple international treaties.

BREEDLOVE: We see forces that are capable of being nuclear that are being moved to Crimea. Whether they are or not, we do not know, but they do have the kind of equipment there that could support that mission.

SCIUTTO: Russia's FOREIGN MINISTRY immediately denied the claims, calling them "unfounded."

The new weapons accompanied by renewed fierce fighting between Ukrainian forces and separatists has all but ended a brief, shaky cease-fire. Stressing alarm in both public and private, Ukrainian officials say they are now preparing to fight.

STEPAN POLTORAK, UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): We expect unexpected actions from them. I see it as our main task to prepare for military action.

SCIUTTO: Today at a U.N. Security Council session on the situation in Ukraine, Ambassador Samantha Power condemned Russia's actions.

SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Russia has negotiated a peace plan and then systematically undermined it at every step. It talks of peace, but it keeps fueling war.


SCIUTTO: I have spoken with Ukrainian officials in Kiev who expressed both alarm and outrage at Russia's actions, and they see two reasons for the Russian military moves.

One is that they believe pro-Russian separatists are preparing to launch a new offensive inside Eastern Ukraine. The second, they believe Russia wants to demonstrate to Ukraine that it has the country outflanked, in effect, from Crimea, an offensive coming in from the east and the possibility of coming in from the south.

The big question here when you talk to U.S. intelligence officials and defense officials is intent vs. capability. Though Russia clearly has capability in all these places now, including all those forces along the border, the big question is when you look inside the brain of Putin, what is his intent? Is he going to use those capabilities?

TAPPER: Right. What is he willing to do? Exactly. Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.

Here to discuss this and other national security challenges facing this country, the chairman of the House Select Intelligence Committee, Republican Congressman Mike Rogers.

Congressman, good to see you, as always.

What have you been told in briefings about Russia maneuvering these nuclear-capable bombers into Crimea?

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, we have no confirmation. I have seen no confirmation that there is any nuclear activity weapon wise in Crimea from the Russians.

I think a lot of what you're seeing is, again, their really focused attempt to destabilize Ukraine. And really what they're trying to do is two things, Jake. One is to prevent any interest in NATO -- or becoming a NATO country, number one, and, number two, to make sure that there's no Western investment interest in Ukraine.

And they have scored wins on both of those. So every time you see this turmoil, I always say take it with a grain of salt. There's a little bit of information operation campaign going on. There's a little bit of truth. There's a little bit of military movement.

And, again, their sole purpose, I think, at this point is to show destabilization for a period of time, especially going into the winter months, which would advantage Russia when it comes to the energy.

TAPPER: From what you're hearing, do you think it's likely that another Russian annexation of Ukraine, this time Eastern Ukraine, is imminent, like what we saw in Crimea earlier?

ROGERS: I don't believe it's imminent. A., I'm not sure they want to own it.

One of the things that we were concerned is all the way along the east, most of the rocket systems that the Russians used in their weaponry for rockets, including some of the nuclear arsenal, were produced in Eastern Ukraine. We believe that they had certainly wanted to work to make sure that they had that within their realm of control. We think that they have done that.

And now you have again this continued destabilization effort. I'm not sure he actually wants to own it because he doesn't want the financial burden of trying to take care of Eastern Ukraine.

I think he's playing a very -- Putin is playing a very fine line here about, again, continued destabilization. He's going to try to take the resources of which he thinks is valuable in Eastern Ukraine. And this nuclear talk I think is just Russia beating its chest. If you have noticed what they have done around the world, including their aircraft buzzing U.S. airspace, certainly encroaching into NATO airspace., we have seen ports of call all over the world with their Russian naval forces we hadn't seen in a very long time, I think this is Putin flexing his muscles at a time that he thinks there's at least confusion in U.S. policy.

TAPPER: The intelligence community offers psychological profiles of world leaders like Putin. What do these profiles say about him? Do they say when they anticipate he will stop grabbing land, if ever? What do they think is the best way to stop him?

ROGERS: Well, again, we have to look at where he is, where we think he should be, where he thinks he should be.

Sometimes, the big saying in the intelligence community is, the Russians look like us, but they don't think like us. A few years ago, he his big -- he had three really big objectives, one, to keep Georgia out of NATO, two, to keep Ukraine out of NATO and leaning West, and pushing back on missile defense.

Well, in his mind now, he's three for three. Remember the pullout of the forward-placed radar systems in both Poland and the Czech Republic. He occupies about 20 percent of the land in the country of Georgia. And they're fortifying that. They're actually digging in and making permanent military structures there.

And now you see clearly what's happening in Ukraine. So in his mind, his foreign policy, his strategy about pushing back on U.S. and Western influences there is working and his national polling back home is off the charts. So this is very successful for him, and that's where he's looking for his next move.

That's why I don't think he -- I think he's smart enough not to bite off more than he can chew in Ukraine and I don't think he will go to the full annexation, at least yet. I don't think he will -- he may do that, but I don't think he will do it just yet.

TAPPER: Let's turn to ISIS, if we can.

Our Elise Labott here at CNN is reporting that President Obama has asked his national security team for a complete review of the American policy toward Syria, including how to remove Assad. I guess my question is, is, there really a viable alternative to Assad or has ISIS and Assad together from opposite sides already frayed whatever moderate resistance there is? ROGERS: Well, there are still some pockets of hope here.

Again, if you would have had a plan -- if we'd had this review and a full, inclusive discussion three years ago, lots of options on the table, two years ago, not so many, six months ago, not that many. Today, it's just awful. But we still have an obligation here to try to put this thing back together.

I think, you remember, there are rebels who are getting up in the morning and fighting the regime. They're taking casualties from al- Nusra, an al Qaeda organization. And they're taking casualties from ISIS, all within the same week.

These are folks that we can build relationships with. These are folks we can identify to help train and put on a target going east. If Assad were to go today, I'll tell you -- again, I was very early about trying to have an aggressive solution with Assad, hopefully a diplomatic one through muscular diplomacy -- that we missed that window.

Now if he goes today, we are going to have mass chaos there. You have Hezbollah militia units there who are operating in the open for Assad. You have all of al-Nusra, an al Qaeda organization, gaining strength. You have ISIS, which used to be an al Qaeda affiliate. They're obviously huge and control land the size of Indiana, armed systems, helicopters.

It is a cauldron of disaster when it comes to terrorism activity there. There is a window still here, but we're going have to be smart about what we do. It might mean that we have some of our special capability soldiers on the ground in Syria helping focus the fight.

If we can get there, I think we can prevent a wider problem. If we can't even get there, which we haven't been able to yet, I think we're going to have a wider problem to deal with.

TAPPER: All right, Congressman Mike Rogers, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

ROGERS: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: And In Turkey, a harrowing experience for three American sailors at port there, a day trip to Istanbul that became a nightmare when a cadre of Turkish men corralled and assaulted them. Turkey of course is a member of NATO and a U.S. ally. Just under 800,000 American tourists visit Turkey each year.

Here with details on the frightening incident, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Barbara, what more can you tell us?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the Obama administration calling this video appalling and straight-up calling it an attack. Take a look at these. These three Navy sailors were on shore leave in

Istanbul, Turkey. They are approached by a group of men shouting at them and they start throwing things at them, pushing, shoving these Navy sailors and then suddenly they grab them and put bags over their heads.

One has to think that these young men were absolutely terrified as to what might be happening to them, but they don't resist. They put up their hands and they try and do everything they can to stay calm, much to their credit, the Navy says, even as this attack is under way.

Later, a group called the Turkish Youth Union claimed credit for this attack. This is an anti-government group in Turkey not associated with ISIS, not associated with al Qaeda, but officials are saying it does underscore some of the anti-American unrest in the region. There's a lot of concern about it. There is a very good military relationship with Turkey. The Pentagon doesn't want to see this one incident derail that.


TAPPER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you so much.

Now our politics lead, President Obama calling it a historic agreement with China. Senate Republicans, not so much -- why, they say, China is getting off easy while American taxpayers foot the bill. That's coming up next.


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

The politics lead now -- fresh off a stunning political defeat at home, President Obama is now toasting an accord in China that his administration is hailing as historic. In a joint news conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the APEC Summit, both leaders announced a climate change deal that they say is designed to reduce carbon emissions by almost a third over the next 15 years with non- binding goals for the reduction of these pollutants.

But what some environmentalists are calling a big first step in the efforts to reverse the effects of climate change is getting the cold shoulder from many Republican lawmakers.

CNN chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash is here with more on that.

Dana, what is the principal Republican objection to this deal? Is it the idea that it's a job killer?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. It's everything from a job killer to a charade. That's what the Republicans are saying.

Look, you know, a lot of people asked last week what does Republican control of Congress really mean? Will it really be that different? The answer is yes, and the issue of climate change is exhibit A.


BASH (voice-over): Mitch McConnell hosting newly elected Senate Republicans in his Capitol office for the first time since their victories put him in charge as majority leader and made him a more powerful adversary for the president.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: The president continues to send signals that he has no intention of moving toward the middle.

BASH: McConnell was eager to express outrage about a sweeping deal President Obama struck hours earlier in China to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is an ambitious goal, but it is an achievable goal.

BASH: China agreed to peak its carbon emissions by 2030. The U.S., to reduce by nearly a third by the year 2025. McConnell isn't buying it.

MCCONNELL: It requires the Chinese to do nothing at all for 16 years while these carbon emission regulations are creating havoc in my state and other states around the country.

BASH: Fighting government regulation was a key part of McConnell's regulation campaign in coal-rich Kentucky.

MCCONNELL: It's jobs for people who are hurting and it stops the war on coal now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitch is a friend of coal.

BASH: In fact, partisan differences over climate change are among the deepest in the newly divided government.

Listen to what Ted Cruz told us earlier this year.

(on camera): Do you believe climate change is real?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I'm always troubled by a theory that fits every perfect situation.

BASH: You don't believe that there is any man made reason for global warming or climate change?

CRUZ: What I think is the data are not supporting what the advocates are arguing.

BASH (voice-over): Perhaps the most stark difference with the GOP Senate takeover is control of the committee overseeing environmental regulation. Staunch Democratic environmentalist Barbara Boxer will hand the gavel to Republican James Inhofe, who wrote the book literally on man-made climate change being a hoax, saying only God can affect the climate. SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: My point is God is still up there,

and this is the arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what he is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.


BASH: Since there is no chance Congress will pass legislation reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, Republicans fully expect the president to use his executive powers to at least start as he's done before, but McConnell has promised that when he's in charge of the Senate next year, Republicans will reverse that and reverse other EPA regulations, Jake, by using Congress' power of the purse and that could set up a showdown and even potentially another shutdown.

TAPPER: Another shutdown.

BASH: Even though Mitch McConnell says it's not going to happen. If they're on this collision course, you'll never know.

TAPPER: He only controls the Senate. He doesn't control the House.

Dana Bash, thank you so much.

One of the most outspoken critics of the deal, you just heard him in the piece right there, Senator Jim Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, the soon-to-be chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. And he joins me now.

Senator Inhofe, thanks so much for joining us.

You say you're against this plan because you think China is getting off too easy and because you simply don't believe China will do enough to reduce its carbon footprint. But is that really your issue with the deal? I thought you didn't think carbon emissions were a problem?

INHOFE: No, I don't think so. In fact, science has totally changed since 2001. Back then, everything was global warming and we're all going to die and all that, and then as we realized, Jake, what the cost was going to be and it would be the largest tax increase in the history of America, $300 billion to $400 billion every year.

And you've got to keep in mind, you remember when Lisa Jackson was director of the EPA appointed by Obama, and I asked her the question on the record, live on TV. I said, if we pass any of this cap-and- trade stuff either by regulation or by legislation, would that have the effect of reducing CO2 emissions? Her answer is, no, it wouldn't because this is not where the problem is. It's in China. It's in India. It's in Mexico.

You know, you can carry that argument further, Jake, and say that as we would reduce ours and chase our manufacturing base to China where they have no regulations, it would have the effect of increasing and not decreasing CO2.

TAPPER: OK, well, I take your point. But without getting into remedies, let's just talk about manmade climate change itself.

There is a scientific consensus overwhelming that climate change is real, that at least partly manmade, that some action must be taken. You've called it a conspiracy. What are you talking about?

INHOFE: No. I'm just saying that when you say that science has settled and the overwhelming scientific analysis comes to that conclusion, frankly, that is just not correct. I can remember back in about 2002 and 2003, when I first started finding out from scientists that the science is not there and then, all of a sudden, it started rolling in and I published in the congressional record, not hundreds, but thousands of scientists who disagree with the United Nations.

Keep in mind the scientists that I'm talking about, that's the United Nations that we're talking about and there are many of them who are supposed to be taking part in that and they were not allowed to do it because they didn't agree with their consensus was.

TAPPER: All right.

INHOFE: And by the way, this China thing, let's keep in mind, President Xi, he said they're going to continue to increase their emissions until 2030.

TAPPER: Right.

INHOFE: They're long gone after that, and so, it's easy to say something like that when in fact, they are saying they're going to increase one additional coal-fired plant every 10 days in China for the foreseeable future.

TAPPER: All right, Senator. Well, the overwhelming majority of scientists disagree with you, but I do want to move on to another topic in the news.

There is a third video that emerged today featuring MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of Obamacare, suggesting in his view that voters lacked a sophistication helped Obamacare supporters push the bill through. This quote, I'm going to play for you this bite is about taxing insurance companies with the knowledge that those costs would be passed on to the consumer.

Let's play that sound.


JONATHAN GRUBER, MIT ECONOMIST: We just tax insurance companies. They pass it on higher prices that offsets the tax break we get. It ends up being the same thing. It's a very clever, you know, basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter.


TAPPER: I want to get your reaction to that, Senator. INHOFE: Well, my reaction is, it's kind of funny, because if you look

at the quote that he was overheard making, I believe to a student group, he said it was the stupidity of the American people that allowed him to have the necessary credentials or to be able to pass Obamacare. I mean, and then look, what's happening right now. In my state of Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt has a lawsuit that has now been -- it's going to be heard very shortly that could unwrap this whole thing and I think he knows that. TAPPER: All right. Senator Inhofe, thank you so much for your time.

Appreciate it.

INHOFE: You bet.

TAPPER: When we come back, it's never happened before in the history of the universe -- a spacecraft landing on a moving comet after traveling for a decade to get there. What are scientists hoping to learn from this?

Plus, what drove three teenage girls to leave their homes in Denver to join the terrorists of ISIS? We are just now learning exactly how they were convinced and whom they were talking to.