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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Chicago Police Superintendent Fired; Terror Fears; Former Intel Head: Paris Style Attack Likely in U.S.; Police Chief Fired, Task Force Announced; New Batch of Clinton's State Department Emails Released. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired December 01, 2015 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A Paris-style terrorist attack here in the U.S.? A former top intelligence official tells us it's only a matter of time.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Taking the fight to ISIS. President Obama announces he's sending more U.S. special forces into Iraq. But what about the ISIS threat here to the homeland? The former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency is here with some alarming candor.

Chicago's mayor fired Chicago's top cop, saying trust in the force has been eroded after it took 400 days to charge an officer and release the videotape of his alleged murder of Laquan McDonald, shot 16 times.

Plus, putting his rubber stamp on the race. Ted Cruz says there's no Republican war against birth control. Proof? Condom vending machines.

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

We're going to begin today with our world lead, a dramatic new mission in the U.S.-led war against ISIS. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter making the announcement just hours ago, the plan, send elite troops to battle ISIS jihadis in Iraq and Syria, hunting down ISIS leaders, rescuing hostages, gathering much-needed intelligence on the terrorist group.

Let's get right to CNN's Barbara Starr. She's standing by at the Pentagon.

Barbara, the Pentagon still not saying how many troops will be a part of the mission or when they will be deployed.


The details are so scarce, perhaps the surprise today was that Defense Secretary Ash Carter put it all out there in public. There is a sense around the Pentagon that he wanted to offer this up in part to show U.S. muscle against ISIS.


STARR (voice-over): Hundreds of U.S. special operations and support forces heading to dangerous ground in Iraq and Syria.

ASHTON CARTER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: These special operators will, over time, be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence, and capture ISIL leaders. This force will also be in a position to conduct unilateral operations in Syria.

STARR: The announcement to send more forces coming after the attacks in Paris. The military will now do more risky missions, such as the special operations hostage rescue raid in October where Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler was killed in action.

CARTER: We're good at intelligence. We're good at mobility. We're good at surprise. We have the long reach that no one else has. And it puts everybody on notice in Syria that you don't know at night who's going to be coming in the window, and that's the sensation that we want all of ISIL's leadership and followers to have.

STARR: The new force will number just dozens of commandos. But they will have massive backup, helicopters to get to their targets, rescue forces if they run into trouble, potentially some 200 troops in all, officials say, all of this as a separate group of 50 special operations forces are to arrive at any time in Northern Syria to assist anti-ISIS forces there.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs underscoring the U.S. needs better intelligence.

GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: Our effectiveness is obviously inextricably linked to the quality of intelligence we have. And our assessment is that this force and the operations this force will conduct will provide us additional intelligence that will make our operations much more effective.

STARR: A raid in Syria that killed top ISIS operative Abu Sayyaf in May provided an initial trove of intelligence, leading to improved information about ISIS. Two operatives still in the U.S. crosshairs, ISIS' leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, said to be involved in plotting future attacks in the West.


STARR: Now, there are so few details available on all of this new effort, Jake, U.S. officials are telling us it could still be days or weeks before these U.S. troops arrive, a lot of details still to be worked out.

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

This all comes, of course, as the tension between Russia and Turkey over the downing of a Russian fighter jet shows no signs of calming and as President Obama is forced to play referee between two world powers whose support in the fight against ISIS the president considers vital. Let's get right to CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta.

He's in Paris.

Jim, the president said, at this point, we shouldn't delude ourselves into thinking that Russia is targeting ISIS, but rather they are clearly propping up the Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad.



President Obama was very candid today that he hasn't made much headway in convincing Vladimir Putin to change his tactics in Syria. That shift, the president acknowledged, could take months as ISIS grows stronger.


ACOSTA (voice-over): They have met face-to-face twice in the last month. But they still don't see eye to eye. So, President Obama told reporters at a climate summit in Paris, expect Russia's Vladimir Putin to continue to go his own way in the war on ISIS, at least for now.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On Mr. Putin, I don't expect that you're going to see a 180 turn on their strategy over the next several weeks.

ACOSTA: That means the U.S. and Russia will keep on bombing different targets, with Washington taking aim at ISIS and Moscow hitting U.S.- backed forces fighting Putin's man in Syria, Bashar al-Assad.

OBAMA: I don't think we should be under any illusions that somehow Russia starts hitting only ISIL targets. That's not happening now. It was never happening. It's not going to be happening in the next several weeks.

ACOSTA: Still, based on their conversations, the president is convinced Putin may be changing his calculus, away from supporting Assad to landing Russia in another military quagmire.

OBAMA: With Afghanistan fresh in the memory, for him to simply get bogged down in an inconclusive and paralyzing civil conflict is not the outcome that he's looking for.

ACOSTA: But it's more complicated than that. Moscow is still outraged over Turkey's downing of a Russian warplane last week, angrily accusing Turkish leaders of trying to protect a black market oil supply from ISIS terrorists.

Turkey's President Erdogan denied that, vowing he'd resign if the claim is proven true. And in a meeting with President Obama, he fired back that Russian bombers are slaughtering ethnic Turkmen in Syria. Mr. Obama all but told both sides to cut it out.

OBAMA: We all have a common enemy, and that is ISIL, and I want to make sure that we focus on that threat. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, the Russian news agency said Moscow had some evidence that Turkey was importing oil from ISIS across the porous Syria/Turkey border.

And while the president didn't weigh in on that claim, Jake, he did say he has had repeated conversations with Turkey's President Erdogan about gaps at that border. And as we know, those gaps at that border have been exploited repeatedly by ISIS terrorists and foreign fighters, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jim Acosta, traveling with the president in Paris, thank you.

Let's talk about this all.

Joining me is retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency under President Obama and special forces commander in Iraq.

General Flynn, thanks so much for being here. We appreciate it today.

So, the Pentagon announcing the U.S. will be deploying more special operations forces to Syria and what they're calling an expeditionary force, expeditionary force to Iraq that will -- quote -- "conduct raids," free hostages, gather intelligence, capture ISIL leaders. Will that be enough, do you think, to dismantle, defeat, destroy ISIS?

LT. GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN (RET.), FORMER DIRECTOR, DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: Yes, I think the first thing that we all have to sort of take a step back and really understand what is the long term strategic objective that the president's trying to achieve?

And I completely endorse what this step is, because I know, to a degree, what it is that they're talking about doing. And I think that this is action on the battlefield that will be necessary, but I think there has to be a longer-term strategic campaign plan that has to be laid out if we're going to achieve what the president wants to achieve, which Islamist destruction of ISIS.

TAPPER: What I'm hearing is that you don't necessarily think this is going to be long-term enough for their destruction.

FLYNN: No. No.

TAPPER: What's needed, then, you think?

FLYNN: I do believe that there has to be some type of Arab-NATO-like structure formed. So, there has to be recognition that the Arab community in that particular region, and actually the trans-region area, to include some countries potentially from North Africa, have to be part of a -- what I describe as NATO-like organization that gets after this problem.

TAPPER: General Flynn, stick around. Stay with us.

I want to get your thoughts on the terrorist attacks in France and what the U.S. should be doing to make sure nothing like that happens here.

We will take a quick break. We will be right back.

FLYNN: Great, Jake. Thanks.



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

Continuing with our world lead, fight to defeat and destroy ISIS.

Back with us, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

General, I want to ask you about this war of words between Turkey and Russia, which has escalated dramatically in the last several days. Russia's now accusing Turkey of intentionally shooting down the Russian jet to protect Turkey's oil trade with ISIS.

Is there any credibility to that idea that Turkey's actually getting oil from ISIS?

FLYNN: You know, I don't know. And I don't know specifically, you know, factually, if that is the case.

There has to be some transit of oil, you know, sort of on the black market, if you will, that is going through Turkey. There has to be, because it's not all going out through the Mediterranean and through the coastline of Syria.

TAPPER: Is Turkey doing enough? Is Turkey doing enough? to stop that black market...


FLYNN: I think that Turkey could do more. I actually think that they could do more along their border.

When we talk about ISIS being able to achieve -- roughly, the numbers are about $500 million a year in oil sales. I mean, that's something that we should be stopping. I think that they are under pressure to do more.

In terms of, you know, this -- this latest downing of this aircraft that violated Turkish airspace, you know, that -- that's a really interesting, you know, sort of tactical dynamic that occurred, because you have an aircraft that -- that violated airspace.

[16:15:11] And I know that they have violated airspace before, was there sufficient warning. TAPPER: Do you think there was?

FLYNN: I don't know. Something like this could happen again, and if it happens again, does it draw us into a larger conflict that we don't, frankly, need?

TAPPER: Right. A lot of Americans look at what happened in Paris a few weeks ago, November 13th, and they're scared something like that could happen here in the United States. How likely is it, do you think, that we'll have a Paris-style attack in the United States? And what more should the U.S. government be doing to prevent it?

FLYNN: Yes, I think that, first, our FBI is probably -- they are the best law enforcement organization in the world bar none. The FBI, I know, is working overtime today to prevent this kind of an attack. Paris was eight guys. There's attack in Mali at the hotel was 10 guys.

So, two guys, three guys, four guys could raise absolute havoc in a mall, somewhere else --

TAPPER: Do you think it's a matter of time.

FLYNN: I do. I really do believe it's a matter of time. I believe that there's going to be where our luck is going to run out and they're going to be able to achieve something along the lines of what we saw in Paris.

TAPPER: In 2012, your agency put out a now declassified report that seems to have predicted the rise of ISIS to power. You said that the deteriorating security situation in Iraq and Syria could lead to a declaration of a, quote, "Islamic State through union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria which will create grave danger in regards to unifying Iraq and protection of its territory."

It was not long after you issued that report that President Obama referred to ISIS as the jayvee team. Do you feel your warnings were ignored?

FLYNN: You know, I think they did not meet a particular narrative that the White House needed, and I'll be very candid with you. I have said, and I believe, that people that were around the president, his sort of inner circle that were advising him, I think advised him incorrectly.

TAPPER: What was the narrative?

FLYNN: I think the narrative was that al Qaeda was on the run, and bin Laden was dead and he was --

TAPPER: The election narrative.

FLYNN: And they were dead, these guys are, you know, we've beaten them. And we knew that. We have killed more leaders in the al Qaeda/ISIS/AQI, Boko Haram, more leaders than we can say and they continue to just multiply. So, we have to get more realistic on what it is we're facing. And

we're not facing a bunch of criminals. These are not criminals. These are hardcore radical Islamists who have a deeply held belief. They are very well-organized, they are very well-led, and they have a vision of this world that is complete opposite to what the vision of what you and I would want for our own families.

TAPPER: The Pentagon, as you know, the inspector general there is looking into whether or not any intelligence was cooked, that people on the ground were saying one thing, that somewhere up the line, people were finessing it to make it sound as though A, ISIS was weaker than it was, and, B, that the airstrikes were more effective than they were. What can you tell us about that?

FLYNN: I believe that the role of intelligence and the importance of intelligence, it begins at the very top of our government, the president sets the priorities. If he feels like he's getting poor intelligence, then he needs to either, you know, find different people or he needs to figure out what's the matter with the system that is in place, because that is a huge system. It's the best in the world if it's focused properly.

And I believe that, you know, whatever they find in the investigation at CentCom with these great analysts that have complained about the sort of abuse of the system, I actually think it all goes back to the White House.

TAPPER: How so?

FLYNN: Because the White House, the president has to say, hey, I need the best -- whatever it is that you have, I want unvarnished truth. That's what I want. And if I am not getting unvarnished truth, I need to basically find it from other people that will give it to me, because if he's getting something that he -- that those that are around him want him to hear versus what he needs to hear, he's going to make poor decisions.

He's at a place where he's got to decide that this is an ideology that we're facing. It's an ideology that we're facing. And that ideology has to be defeated and it has to be changed.

TAPPER: General Michael Flynn, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

FLYNN: Great, Jake. Thanks. Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: In our national lead, Chicago's top cop fired today, after killing of a teenager by a police officer was caught on video. And now, new video is raising even more questions.

Plus, Republican front-runner Donald Trump is usually one with the colorful language.

[16:20:00] But now, Senator Ted Cruz is letting loose, talking sex on the campaign trail. That's ahead.


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

Our national lead now: some stunning news out of Chicago this afternoon, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired his police superintendent, Garry McCarthy. Outraged has overtaken the city and nation after this chilling police shooting of Laquan McDonald, seen here from an officer's dashcam, was finally released, the video, after more than a year.

The teenager shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke, and the video kept from the public for 400 days.

[16:25:05] Let's get right to CNN's Ryan Young.

Ryan, protesters have been calling for the police chief's resignation. Will this move be enough for them?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, I can honestly tell you, the people that we talk to said this is not enough. In fact, some say one down, two to go. They're hoping that the mayor and the state's attorney also disappear because they think there needs to be a change in leadership in the city.


MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL, CHICAGO: He has become an issue rather than dealing with the issue and a distraction.

YOUNG (voice-over): In response to the fury over the city's handling of the shooting death of Laquan McDonald by a police officer, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he asked for the resignation of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.

EMANUEL: I have a lot of loyalty to what he's done and him, but I have a bigger loyalty to the city of Chicago, its future, and strength of the future. And no one person trumps my commitment and my responsibility to the city of Chicago and its future.

YOUNG: Dashcam video of 2014 incident in which McDonald was shot 16 times by Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, inspired protests and calls for reform in a city struggling to curb gun violence. Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder before the video was made public. Monday night, Van Dyke walked out of the jail, released on bond, the same day McCarthy appeared on local television to defend his handling of the indicate saying it was being handled by another investigative body.

GARRY MCCARTHY, CHICAGO POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: It's a very high- charged political atmosphere we're living in now. I couldn't fire him. I couldn't put him in no pay status. I couldn't discipline him. That's the law. It was not the Chicago Police Department investigating this incident.

YOUNG: Chicago police also face intense scrutiny regarding handling of the case and evidence. The manager of a Burger King near the scene accuses of police erasing 86 minutes of video from a camera that captured video prior to McDonald's shooting. The surveillance video was ultimately seized by the FBI and a Chicago state official says that after reviewing the video, it did not appear that any material had been deleted.

Outrage over the shooting has grown steadily since the video was released last week. Monday, a 21-year-old man was arrested and accused of threatening to kill students and staff at a University of Chicago, reportedly in an attempt to avenge McDonald's death.

As part of a plan to restore the public's faith, Mayor Emanuel detailed a new task force on law enforcement accountability that will review how the city trains and oversees its police officers.


RYAN: Now, of course, McCarthy just told me last week, a lot of people forget this, he cannot fire police officer. It has to go before a review board. There will be other steps that are going forward soon, body cameras will also be on officers. And that should expand throughout the city. So, people are hoping for more changes throughout the city -- Jake.

TAPPER: Ryan Young for us in Chicago, thanks so much.

On to our politics lead now. The drip, drip, drip of Hillary Clinton's e-mails continues.

The State Department just released another batch of work-related e- mails that Clinton sent from her private e-mail server while secretary of state. They included e-mail to her daughter Chelsea who used the pseudonym Diane Reynolds that Republicans have seized as evidence that Clinton misled the public about the cause of the Benghazi attacks. She publicly blamed that anti-Muslim video while privately e-mailing to Chelsea that it was terrorism.

CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar read through the e- mails.

Brianna, these emails, no surprise, suggest that Clinton and her team focused on her political image throughout her time at the State Department.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they did, very concerned and, at times, out of touch with the repercussions of some of her testimony. It's not surprising that Clinton's aides and friends were looking out for her. But it is fascinating to really pull back the curtain as they assured her that she never firmly committed to the notion of this attack on Benghazi was born out of a protest over a video depicting the Prophet Muhammad.


KEILAR (voice-over): The most memorable moment from Hillary Clinton's 2013 testimony on the terrorist establishes in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?

KEILAR: And e-mails newly released by the State Department show denial among top Clinton aides that controversial moment in her testimony was damaging. As congratulatory messages from Clinton supporters poured in, longtime confidant Mark Penn aired this concern, "I don't think the emotion in the hearing works to your advantage. It looks more like they rattled you on something no one outside the crazy right blamed you for anyway."

But a top aide dismissed assessment, e-mailing the secretary, "Give me a break. You do not look rattled. You looked real. There's a difference, a big one."

Also in the batch, an e-mail sent hours after the attack, from Clinton to Diane Reynolds, actually a pseudonym used by her daughter Chelsea.