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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With Arizona Congresswoman Martha McSally; Hillary Clinton in Iowa; Gyrocopter Pilot Charged. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 16, 2015 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:19]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: That Florida man with the gyrocopter was just charged. But, more importantly, did he just give people looking to attack the Capitol a blueprint for an easy way to do it?

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The national lead. He flew undetected, undeterred through the "most restricted airspace in the world" -- quote, unquote -- before setting his aircraft down on the Capitol lawn, but instead of protest letters, what if he had intended to deliver a dirty bomb?

The politics lead. Secretary Hillary Clinton in Iowa, her debut week on the trail, but there are some difficult questions being posed by other Democrats on her left flank about whether she's progressive enough to be her party's standard bearer.

And the world lead. ISIS on the verge of routing the city of Ramadi just a short drive from Baghdad. The Iraqi army pleading for reinforcements leaving, as at least 150,000 Iraqi citizens caught in the crosshairs are leaving their homes, desperately trying to flee.

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

We are going to begin with some breaking news in the national lead, charges just filed against the Florida man who flew that small aircraft over what is supposed to be the most restricted no-fly zone in the country, the nation's capital. He landed of course on the front lawn of Congress.

A federal judge just released Doug Hughes from custody. He will now be on house arrest at his home in Tampa. He showed up to court today dressed in his mailman uniform complete with the Postal Service logo. The stunt exposing a serious national security vulnerability, posing major questions today, a Senate committee leading a loud national chorus demanding answers.

How could so many law enforcement and safety personnel miss this flying contraption as it flew an estimated two hours into Washington, D.C.? After 9/11, the people in charge of keeping us safe were blamed for a failure of the imagination, for not anticipating terrorists turning planes into weapons, but this incident required no imagination. We have been reporting on drones and other rogue small aircraft for

years. A drone just landed on the White House grounds in January. This is not a failure of imagination. This is a failure of competence, a failure to adapt into the world in which we are living. Not one person tried to stop Hughes at his self-made gyrocopter took off from a small airport in Pennsylvania.

When asked about the incident today, the secretary of homeland security, Jeh Johnson, said Hughes flew under the radar, literally. In no way was Doug Hughes secret about his plans. In fact, the Secret Service questioned him about his preparations for this bold stunt back in 2013.

Jim Acosta is CNN's senior White House correspondent.

Jim, why wasn't this man's flight stopped?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, a lot flies under the radar in Washington, as you know, and this gyrocopter incident is prompting new security concerns across the nation's capital, especially here at the White House, where aides to the president are keenly aware that security upgrades are sorely needed on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): One day after he buzzed Washington in his gyrocopter and touched down at the Capitol as seen in this AP video, Florida political activist and pilot Doug Hughes landed in federal court, where he may soon be grounded behind bars.

Hughes is now facing federal charges, including violating national defense airspace, in a stunt aimed at protesting campaign fund- raising, a plan he shared in advance with "The Tampa Bay Times."

DOUG HUGHES, PILOT: I don't believe that the authorities are going to shoot down a 60-year-old mailman in a flying bicycle.

ACOSTA: Up on Capitol Hill, the outrage was bipartisan.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Why weren't there alarm bells that went off? Why wasn't it intercepted? Did we know about it? How far from the Capitol grounds did we know?

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: What we need to do is prosecute him, set a very strong example. We don't want anymore stunts like this.

ACOSTA: The Secret Service denied reports that it was given a heads- up that Hughes was about to fly into Washington. But agency officials confirmed they did talk to Hughes 18 months ago, when they first heard about his plans. The Secret Service then forwarded the information to the Capitol Police.

The agency's director, Joe Clancy, briefed lawmakers who are demanding answers.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: We have to come up with the appropriate technology to be able to know about these things.

ACOSTA: After a small drone crash-landed on the White House grounds earlier this year, and a man hopped the White House fence last fall, the Secret Service is already working on security upgrades, such as adding temporary steel spikes to the fence to deter jumpers.

[16:05:00]

ACOSTA: But it seems nobody ever thought man with a gyrocopter like something out of a James Bond movie would ever pose a threat, least of all the president.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I wasn't on the trip, so I didn't see his initial reaction. It might have been, what's a gyrocopter? I know that was my reaction.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: After his court date today, Hughes was released, but will be placed under home detention and barred from operating any aircraft while he's awaiting trial.

As for those protocols in place for protecting the White House and the Capitol from aviation threats, the White House says the gyrocopter was flying so slow and so low that it was difficult to be detected -- Jake.

TAPPER: Jim Acosta live at the White House, thank you so much.

I want to bring in aviation correspondent Rene Marsh.

Rene, is the federal government able to track these smaller aircraft, whether it's a drone or a gyrocopter-type thing?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: I spoke to a former government radar engineer who says no one is watching these radars, these -- specifically, they're not watching those low-flying slow- moving aircraft.

They're all fixated on the potential of something like a huge jetliner. I just received a rather frank answer to that question from NORAD, saying, detecting and tracking low, slow fliers and differentiating them from weather, terrain and birds is a technical and operational challenge.

Well, tonight, concerns about the security of airspace over the nation's capital.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not good, people.

MARSH (voice-over): The critical question at center of multiple investigations, how did this gyrocopter fly through what's supposed to be highly protected and restricted airspace, easily landing on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol?

RICK CASTALDO, FORMER FAA RADAR SURVEILLANCE ENGINEER: The military's mission seems to be optimized towards finding large aircraft with missiles, not smaller aircraft flying in airspace where they don't expect them. I would say today we're not prepared for that.

MARSH: Douglas Hughes took off from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, traveling nearly 100 miles into restricted airspace. The trip took roughly two hours.

The FAA, Secret Service, Capitol Hill Police and Homeland Security monitor radar for this hypersensitive airspace around the clock. What's supposed to happen is the monitoring agencies communicate in real time on a conference call. Any potential threat is assessed. Then NORAD steps in, scrambling either a military jet or Coast Guard chopper and can shoot down an aircraft if necessary. How did they miss this?

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says because it actually flew under the radar. The gyrocopter on average flies comfortably 50 to 100 feet, although it's capable of flying higher. At that altitude, it's out of reach of most radar detection, a clear vulnerability.

CASTALDO: I have said that a number of times that it would be pretty simple to take a home-built aircraft down the river, make a left turn over the Lincoln Memorial and fly it up the Mall. It wouldn't be the first time it's been done.

MARSH: In January, a drone crashed on to the White House lawn, and in 1994, a small Cessna flying low and out of radar's reach came down outside the White House. No one tried to stop that one either.

CASTALDO: It would be relatively simple to create a scenario where you could launch 10 gyrocopters from 10 different airports an hour way from downtown D.C., and fly them at the same time with a nasty mission.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH: Well, the argument is, hypersensitive radars would trigger countless false alarms detecting things like birds, but one expert said integration of other sensors like noise monitors to pick up the propeller's signature of a gyrocopter is a potential solution.

So what he's saying is, government needs to essentially think outside of the box.

TAPPER: Yes. You think?

MARSH: Yes.

TAPPER: Rene Marsh, thanks so much.

Joining me now is Congresswoman Martha McSally. She's a retired Air Force colonel and she's a Republican from Arizona who sit on the House Homeland Security Committee. Thanks so much for joining us, Congresswoman.

REP. MARTHA MCSALLY (R), ARIZONA: Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: I'm glad this man is OK, as I'm sure we all are, but I have to say, I don't feel particularly comfortable knowing he could fly over what is labeled restricted airspace. Are you surprised he made it as far as the Capitol lawn?

MCSALLY: Actually, I'm deeply concerned that he did. I know we have a multilayer defense here and it is restricted airspace.

He was obviously in a gyrocopter, which is very difficult to detect by radar. But we definitely need do forensics on how this happened. It's one thing to be able to do it. It's another, did we know about it? Did anybody pick him up? Or did our systems all realize it when he landed?

I have been out on a Border Patrol Black Hawk near our border, dealing with the ultralight threat. We're seeing this in border security and certainly a threat and our military trying to pick up small airborne, slow-moving, low-altitude objects, to be able to detect them.

[16:10:11]

So, this is certainly a challenge for our security, but it's one that we need to really take very seriously because it exposed a vulnerability. Obviously, he didn't -- he wasn't trying to hurt somebody, but somebody else could, if he was armed or had an explosive on board or whatever else that somebody else might be intending to do to exploit this vulnerability.

TAPPER: He went through two states before getting into D.C.

MCSALLY: Yes.

TAPPER: An estimated two hours in the air. Who should have seen something? Who is responsible for sounding the alarm?

MCSALLY: Well, I think it's -- again, we got to do forensics on the assessment of what happened, but I think there's a whole lot of levels of responsibility.

The first, again, is with those that are responsible for controlling our airspace, but again, low-flying, slow aircraft like his might not be picked up on anybody's radar just because of the limitations of radar systems. So, then, if we have got this kind of threat, what's the endgame? When they penetrate into restricted airspace coming near the Capitol, or the White House, other high-value areas, what is our endgame in a multilayer defense to be able to pick it up by other means and be able to address it, intercept it and stop it, again, if it is something that actually is a threat?

So this is what needs to happen in the forensics of how this came about, because this is a very serious vulnerability that has been exposed through this incident. TAPPER: He detailed his protest plans to a newspaper, to "The Tampa

Bay Times" in Florida and, of course, could, have been carrying anything. Thank heaven he wasn't.

MCSALLY: Right.

TAPPER: And he made it clear he was not intending to be any sort of threat, but he could have had a weapon, he could have had anthrax, he could have had a bomb. What can be done to track a small contraption like a gyrocopter or a drone and how would you stop it? Is shooting it down the only way?

MCSALLY: Well, again, let's make sure we do the assessment and the get the facts to see if anybody tracked him and with what technology they may have tracked him.

We then need to see what technologies we have that could help, again, pick up a low-flying slow gyrocopter like this, especially when it's coming towards a high-value area. The first issue is detecting it. And the second one is, what do you do about it once you have detected?

How do you intercept it? How do you notify him, again, if it's a mistake, vs. somebody who is tending to do harm? And then what's the endgame there? Certainly, we have penalties for those who have come into restricted airspace. This guy needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and we need to deter others.

The fact that he even thought he could get away with this and not have any harm to himself come is also a concern and sends signal to others that they may be able to as well. All of this sends the wrong signal to our enemies and those violent extremists out there who are trying to figure out how to attack America from within or foreign fighters that are flowing from overseas, both soft targets and high-value targets, and exposing our vulnerabilities is not a good thing.

TAPPER: Congresswoman McSally, thank you so much for joining us.

MCSALLY: Thanks for having me on.

TAPPER: The politics lead, Hillary Clinton slammed by critics after it was revealed her foundation accepted some big bucks from foreign countries, including a few with troubling human rights records. Now the foundation says it will stop taking money from some, but not all foreign donors.

Is this compromise enough to quiet critics or will it hurt her on the campaign trail? That story and more next.

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[16:17:53] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Some tough questions for Secretary Hillary Clinton on the politics lead today, and they're coming -- from the inside house -- from her left-ward plank. As you can see from these photos Clintons snapped by "Vox's" Jonathan

Allen, Clintons bagged were packed, she was even carrying them herself as he departed Omaha, Iowa today. But that's not the only baggage Clinton is carrying. There are those peskier parts of her record on progressive issues that she's been trying to get rid of as she introduces or re-introduces herself to Democratic voters.

Let's go right to CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, Clinton's heading to New Hampshire on Monday. How's the salesmanship going so far?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, I mean, so far, the salesmanship is going pretty well. But some of those painful Iowa memories of finishing third place in 2008 replaced by fresh hand shakes and photographers with eager Democrats.

But now, the hard part really begins, as every position in her 2016 campaign is not only compared to rivals but also compared to herself. Voters weigh a fine line between evolving with the times and old- fashioned flip-flopping.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY (voice-over): It's cleanup week for Hillary Clinton.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am so delighted to be here.

ZELENY: New views --

CLINTON: I'm running for president.

ZELENY: -- for a new campaign.

CLINTON: I'll be rolling out ideas.

ZELENY: New answers for old questions that still stir controversy. Should undocumented immigrants be given driver's licenses?

Today, her campaign released a statement saying yes. "Hillary supports state policies to provide drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants."

In the 2008 race, it was an issue she wrestled with and one her Democratic rival seized on at this presidential debate.

CLINTON: I just want to add, I did not say that it should be done, but I certainly recognize why Governor Spitzer is trying to do it and we have failed. We have failed.

CHRIS DODD (D), 2008 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Wait a minute. No, no, no. You said yes, you thought it made sense to do it.

CLINTON: No. I didn't, Chris. But point is -- what are we going to do with all of these illegal immigrants who are driving on the roads? DODD: That's a legitimate issue.

ZELENY: On the defensive, she finally said she would not support drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants.

On same-sex marriage, her campaign now says she supports marriage equality and hopes the Supreme Court will come down on the side of same-sex couples being guaranteed that constitutional right.

[16:20:08] But in 2008, she and other Democrats including Barack Obama opposed legalizing gay marriage. Even last year, she took a far narrower view in an interview with NPR.

CLINTON: For me, marriage had always been a matter left to the states. I fully endorse the efforts by activists who work state by state.

ZELENY: This week, a rival Democrat, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, who signed gay marriage into law three years ago, took aim at Clinton in this unusually pointed interview.

MARTIN O'MALLEY (D), FORMER MARYLAND GOVERNOR: History celebrates profiles in courage, not profiles in convenience. The dignity of every person tells that the right to marry is not a state right. It is a human right.

ZELENY: And one more item in the cleanup aisle. The Clinton Foundation saying today it will change how it does business by disclosing the names of donors four time as year, instead of only annually. The foundation will now limit but not eliminate contributions from foreign governments. It will only allow donations from Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom.

She's already step downed from the foundation board, but the new rules are tended to ease conflicts of interest as she seeks the presidency.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: Now, it's unlikely her decision to resign from the board of the Clinton Foundation and all these new rules will sweep away all the controversy. But one thing her campaign is dealing with now as they prepared to enter the second week of her candidacy is more issue focus, and they're doing that as they head to New Hampshire.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, stick around.

I also want to bring in right now, CNN senior political reporter Nia- Malika Henderson to the conversation.

Welcome to CNN.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Great to be here. Yes.

TAPPER: Speaking of cleanup, I should mention it's Omaha, Nebraska, not Omaha, Iowa.

But more important than my mess-ups, let's talk about what's going on here. Supporters of Governor Martin O'Malley of Maryland, they're saying that Clinton is flip-flopping and she's playing catch-up for political expedience on issues where O'Malley has led. Is this a potent charge do you think?

HENDERSON: You know, I think specifically you're talking about same- sex marriage. I think in that issue, a very few profiles in courage and any of the parties, Obama and Clinton, they're all playing catch- up on this. So I think it's going to be difficult for him to make that charge. I think he obviously is trying to seek that progressive wing of the party, the party where Elizabeth Warren is.

But I think he's got work to do himself in terms of growing the buzz and the energy around his potential candidacy. But I think particularly on this issue of same-sex marriage the fact that everyone is kind of evolved on this issue. Martin O'Malley signed it in 2012. In 2004, Massachusetts was the first to have same-sex marriage. So, it's not like he was way, way out front either on this issue.

TAPPER: Jeff, it's, of course, not that issue or the drivers licenses for the undocumented workers. There's been a lot of populist talk from Clinton in Iowa including she said, quote, "There's something wrong when hedge fund managers pay lower taxes than nurses or truckers". But there was a great story in "Politico" from Ben White and Ken Vogel, talking about people on Wall Street, hedge fund managers and the like saying, eh, we know that's kind of just talk?

ZELENY: Well, they hope it's kind of just talk. It's a wink and a nod there.

And the reality is, Hillary Clinton is not the top of their enemies list. Elizabeth Warren is up there. Even Barack Obama is higher than that. So, I think they know she is going to, one of them. She was the senator who represented their interests and whatnot.

But the question is on the left: is this talk going to be sufficient enough for the liberals on the left? Or will she have to keep going? I talked to a top Wall Street lobbyist, or Wall Street donor, excuse me, who gives -- they said, we're watching what she is saying. She's not scary to us yet because we know she's with us.

But I think, the question is how far she has to tack to her left? You know, will she start putting policies out there that really are alarming to them?

TAPPER: Nia-Malika, Secretary Clinton told a small audience in Norwalk, Iowa, yesterday, that, quote, "All my grandparents came over here." BuzzFeed, among others, looked into it. Only one of her grandparents was an immigrant to this nation. She's probably not used to having her comments dissected this way, even she was the secretary of state, that was a relatively apolitical position?

HENDERSON: Yes. And you see politicians often get into this trouble with their biography, because they're really trying to overplay or play up their humble beginnings, but also try to play up the sort of aspirational arc of their careers and bios. I think for her, it will both low herself (ph), stuff like this usually does. Marco Rubio got into a similar trouble with some of the facts of his bio.

I think for her, it is showing that she's a little bit rusty. That she can't speak in these kind of vague terms in the way she used to, but it also gets at an underlying challenge she has and some polls show this, with credibility and with honesty and whether or not she has a problem being straightforward on some issues.

[16:25:03] TAPPER: Let's hop across the aisle and talk about Republicans for a sec. Former President George W. Bush told 7,000 people in Chicago Wednesday, according to "Politico", that Jeb Bush's biggest problem is him, George W. Bush. That's, quote, "why you won't see me out there on the campaign trail."

Fair assessment?

ZELENY: It's probably one of his bigger problem. I mean, certainly the last name. We are not going to see him out there a lot, because even among Republicans, certainly in the Republican primary, that's where really the issue here is.

Don't forget, the Tea Party rise actually started at the end of the Bush years.

TAPPER: Yes.

ZELENY: -- because all of the spending, bailouts, everything else.

So, he's not going to be welcome to campaigning in the primary, but by the end, say Jeb Bush wins the nomination, I'd be surprised if the brother actually goes through the whole season sitting it out. He could be helpful I think to some Republicans in a general election, certainly helpful at raising money. And his rolodex is the most important of all.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, Nia-Malika Henderson, thank you so much.

Up next on THE LEAD: an American accused of training in Syria alongside terrorists, but the Feds say he did not stop there. He came back to the U.S. on a mission to pull off an attack right here.

Plus, a startling new report on the growing popularity of electronics cigarettes -- e-cigs among teens and even tweens. Why and how are so many young people getting their hands on these things? Is anything serious being done to reverse this trend?

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