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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Waco Police Warn Carnage After Biker Brawl Might Not Be Over; Key Iraqi City Falls To ISIS; Interview With Robert Gates; Police: Rival Gang Crashed Biker Meeting; Hillary Clinton Finally Takes Reporter Questions. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired May 19, 2015 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The Obama administration warns the battle against ISIS will not end anytime soon.
I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.
The world lead. After a key Iraqi city falls, the Obama administration says the battle with ISIS will be -- quote -- "a long slog," more than a decade after the Bush administration used the exact same words to describe the situation in Iraq.
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates is here to talk about the significance of the fall of Ramadi and whether the Pentagon's downplaying of it is mere spin.
The national lead. Waco police are warning that the carnage may not be over. The tensions between rival biker gangs that triggered the massacre in Texas could throttle up again. This time, is law enforcement in the crosshairs?
Also in national, startling new details in that quadruple murder in one of D.C.'s most exclusive neighborhoods, but are police any closer to tracking down this hoodie-clad person of interest caught on tape?
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We're going to begin today with our world lead. An alarm is sounded today by President Obama's top national security adviser. In an interview with "USA Today," National Security Adviser Dr. Susan Rice left no doubt that the war with ISIS will not be quick.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN RICE, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: But this is going to be a long slog.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: A long slog. That's virtually the same phrase former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld deployed a few months after the war in Iraq began back in 2003. In a memo, he wrote: "It will be a long, hard slog." But while the Obama administration says this will be a long slog, the White House also said today that the concern over losing Ramadi is overblown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Are we going to light our hair on fire every time that there is a setback in the campaign against ISIL?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: I want to get right to CNN's Barbara Starr. She's at the Pentagon.
Barbara, the Pentagon's line the past two days has been, this is just a setback. Is anyone at the Pentagon conceding that the fall of Ramadi is more serious than that?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jake, at this point, the Washington, the Pentagon talking point setback is really holding firm.
I think the issue is the military reality on the ground may be very different.
STARR (voice-over): Tens of thousands of Iraqis on the run, fleeing Ramadi from ISIS' brutal takeover, now many sick and stranded in the desert. Hundreds may have already been killed.
REP. ED ROYCE (R), CALIFORNIA: One of the most horrific aspects of this, of course, is as these ISIS fighters went through the town, they massacred children, wives of the townspeople.
STARR: Less than 70 miles from Baghdad, Ramadi extends ISIS' influence.
COL. PETER MANSOOR (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: To lose this city to ISIS, the new incarnation of al Qaeda in Iraq, is a huge blow and it's one that we should not sugarcoat and say it just doesn't matter because it does matter and it matters a great deal.
STARR: Some Iraqi troops had to be airlifted out of the city.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Police are abandoning positions, one area after another.
STARR: In the end, there was no help from the central government in Baghdad.
MANSOOR: The Iraqi army didn't have a good sense of what was happening in the city. Clearly, the Islamic State had been making inroads over the preceding weeks and months and Ramadi was the foundation rotting from within. STARR: Shia militiamen are gathering outside of Ramadi for a possible
counterattack. Sunni troops asking for arms. U.S. airstrikes will continue. CNN has learned U.S. military commanders have for now ruled out special forces on the ground to help pick out targets inside Ramadi.
But after the successful raid in Syria that killed an ISIS leader and captured his wife, more ground missions could happen as the U.S. targets leaders who have specific intelligence.
ROYCE: You run hostage operations of the situation faced by Kayla Mueller, along with two of our journalists there, Sotloff and Foley. The fact that those three were killed and this commander in ISIS presumably had a hand in it, since he ran the hostage operations, is another reason why eliminating him from the battlefield is important.
STARR: And no word yet, Jake, on what intelligence they found, if any, about those American hostages -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon, thank you so much.
Just a few minutes ago, I spoke about the fight against ISIS with former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who served under both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama from 2006 to 2011. His bestselling book "Duty: Memories of a Secretary at War" is now out in paperback.
TAPPER: Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for being here.
Very enjoyable book. I want to get some answers to questions I have about it. The first, of course, since so much of the book is about Iraq, the Pentagon and the Obama administration are suggesting that the loss of Ramadi is not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. Do you agree with that, or do you think that's spin?
ROBERT GATES, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I think that it's -- I think it is a serious loss. And because it follows Fallujah, it follows Mosul, it suggests that in the Anbar area and in the Sunni area, that ISIS is still able to assemble forces and able to carry out offensive operations.
I think that -- I think it has a political and a symbolic impact, as much as a military impact. A lot of American blood was shed over Ramadi. And to have it in the hands of ISIS is hard to characterize as other than a major setback, I think.
TAPPER: House Speaker John Boehner talked about the war against ISIS today. I would like to get your reaction. Let's play that sound.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: And with new gains made by ISIL in Ramadi, we know that hope is not a strategy. The president's plan isn't working. It's time for him to come up with a real overarching strategy to defeat the ongoing terrorist threat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Do you agree with that? Do you think the Obama administration has a working, real, credible strategy against ISIS?
GATES: Well, first, I think the president was right to insist on a change in the Iraqi government, getting rid of Prime Minister Maliki, before we did anything.
Second, I think he's right that, when it comes to boots on the ground, they almost entirely have to be Arab or Kurd. But I think -- I think that they do need to at least revisit the rules of engagement for our troops, for the troops that we have there. I think that we need American forward air controllers and spotters for the aircraft attacks.
I think we need more flexibility for the use of special forces. And I think we need to have embedded American trainers with the Iraqi security forces, the Anbar tribes, and with the Kurds down to at least the battalion level, so that we can help them be more successful.
TAPPER: How many troops, how many U.S. troops should be in Iraq right now, do you think? It's about 3,000 right now, I think.
GATES: I know a lot of people say, well, this all means re-invading Iraq. I think that's nonsense. Nobody is talking about a huge number of troops.
I would have to defer to the military on the exact numbers. But the kinds of roles that I have been describing, I think you could do largely within the framework of the number of troops that are already there, perhaps a different mix of troops, and, again, with different rules of engagement.
TAPPER: There's been a lot of talk in the Republican presidential circles of, knowing then what you know now about WMD, would the U.S., should the U.S. have invaded Iraq to begin with?
Let me ask you a question about a more recent decision. Knowing then what we know now about ISIS in Iraq, was it a mistake to -- for President Obama not to have pushed harder to keep U.S. troops in Iraq?
GATES: I think, even had there been no ISIS, that it would have been far better for us to maintain some presence, some troop presence in Iraq for a much longer period of time.
Our presence there gave us access and gave us influence. We were able to constrained Maliki's worst instincts. We were able to ensure that the leadership of the Iraqi security services was based on competence and merit. And once we left, all the generals that we had trained and that we had helped select were all fired and replaced by a bunch of political hacks.
And one of the reasons that the Iraqi security forces are so hapless is that so many of their officers were just a bunch of political appointees that had no skill. So, even -- even had there been no ISIS, a longer-term presence by U.S. forces, I think, was necessary.
TAPPER: You write in the book about the only major decision with which you disagreed with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with whom you had a very strong working relationship, as well as with her predecessor, Condi Rice -- you had a very strong working relationship with her -- but you said the biggest decision that you disagreed with her on was about whether or not the U.S. should intervene militarily in Libya.
Looking back on it, you feel comfortable in your decision? I mean, the genocide in Benghazi was prevented, and yet you look at what's going on in Libya, it's hard to argue that the Obama administration had a plan for afterwards.
GATES: Well, the plan -- and the irony is that some of those who were the most critical of President Bush for not having a plan in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was ousted didn't have a plan for what to do in Libya after Gadhafi was ousted.
I think -- I think we just overestimate our ability to shape events in these countries. And we pay too little attention to things like the law of unintended consequences.
I believe that, if you look at Libya today, that my opposition to our intervening there was the right thing to have done. I think particularly once we prevented the humanitarian slaughter that we all worried about in Benghazi, when Gadhafi's troops were headed in that direction, but once we prevented that, and we could for a much smaller cost have sustained that protection of the eastern part of the country, I think going in and throwing out Gadhafi was a mistake.
TAPPER: All right, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
The book is "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War." It's a great read.
Thanks so much for joining us.
GATES: Thank you.
TAPPER: In national news: police now preparing for more bloodshed in Waco, Texas, saying that these biker gangs -- quote -- "like participating in war," this as police now admit some of the bikers held on $1 million bond were mistakenly released -- that story next.
[16:15:50] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Even after close to 200 people were arrested, bikers described by one as having, quote, "PhDs in violence and intimidation", may still be out there with a score to settle. That warning from police in Texas tops our national lead today.
We're getting new information about that bloody biker shootout with each other and police that left nine people dead in Waco, a scene that was littered with guns, chains, knives, bats, club and pools of blood. And when it was over, 170 alleged biker gang members were under arrest. It's an endless string of mug shots. It looks like casting call for "Sons of Anarchy", each facing $1 million bail.
Nick Valencia is live for us in Waco, Texas, with much new information.
Nick, police still going through all of the evidence there?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And new information just in to CNN within the last hour saying they're looking for three men who were originally arrested and detained in a $50,000 bond, mistakenly released.
These men are dangerous, according to police. They want to be brought back into custody according to police under the million dollar bond.
We're learning more about the individuals involved in the chaotic scene on Sunday. Police telling me that a majority of those arrested and killed were from outside the Waco area. Many bike gang members came here for this coalition meeting that police knew was going to take place. They say chaos began when an uninvited rival gang showed up to that event.
Also, they say that somebody got their foot run over. Coincidentally, there was another skirmish going on inside of Twin Peaks at the same time. Eventually, all of that violence spilled on outside and that gun fire was exchanged not only between the biker gangs but also police who had anticipated the trouble.
In the end, nine people left dead, 18 injured, another 170 are in police custody. Police say they were worried and concerned about threats. However, they say, those threats have toned down and they don't believe anymore biker gang members are coming to the area as originally believed -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Nick Valencia in Waco, thanks so much for that report.
Joining me now is Pat Matter, former president of the Minnesota Hells Angels and author of the book, "Breaking the Code".
Mr. Matter, thanks for joining us.
You were basically the godfather of the Minnesota Hells Angels. How much is violence and criminality part of the biker culture versus camaraderie and adventure? PAT MATTER, FORMER PRESIDENT, MINNESOTA HELLS ANGELS: Well, it goes
hand in hand. There is a lot of criminal activity in the biker culture. I could use for example any chapter of Hells Angels up here.
I was in 2003 arrested for cocaine charges, and then it led to a 21- count indictment for methamphetamine distribution and a lot of other things that was in that indictment. I eventually ended up pleading guilty to methamphetamine charges and was sentenced to 17 1/2 years in federal prison.
TAPPER: It appears as if this battle, this fight, shootout in Waco all came down to some sort of turf battle and respect, and might have escalated because of a patch on a jacket.
You organized the expansion of the Minnesota Hells Angels. Tell us about these turf wars. Is this about drug distribution areas? Is this just about who gets to bike where? What's the fight over?
MATTER: The fight is over territory, Jake. It's not about drugs. Of course, drugs is second hand. It's about that patch and who controls that area.
It's the same thing what happened in Minnesota when I orchestrated the move in Illinois. The other club over there was the Outlaws and violence followed after that, after I expanded into Illinois. There was retaliation with my truck being blown up. It was C-4, several attempts on my life. Plus, the Chicago clubhouse being blown up.
It's all over that bottom rocker. And that's what it amounts to, who is controlling the area. And when you get four or five clubs like that together at one venue, there's going to be clubs there that don't like the other club.
[16:20:02] And it could be because some other big club is courting them to join their club.
And when you're, let's say, Texas, and you're wearing the rocker, the Bandidos have been there forever. They probably might have felt a threat that this club might join a bigger club.
TAPPER: One hundred seventy alleged biker gang members now under arrest and the investigation is not close to being over, law enforcement says. You broke the code, so to speak and you testified against fellow Angels when faced with a life sentence. How impossible -- how difficult was that decision for you?
MATTER: That was the hardest thing I ever did but it's the best thing I ever did. I haven't looked back since that day. My life has completely turned around since then.
TAPPER: Do you think that some of these guys in jail right now, the 170, do you think some of them will ultimately flip?
MATTER: I don't know what they'll do, Jake. If they take a good look at what their culture is about, they probably better take a second look at what they're doing. TAPPER: There's a fear and concern among law enforcement right now
that some of these people who are free, who are members of the biker gang, including the three who mistakenly got out on the $50,000 bond before it was up to a million, that they might be seeking retaliation against police. Is that -- should the law enforcement be concerned about that? It seems to me like if I were a member of a bike are gang, I wouldn't go picking a fight with the police. That's a good way to guarantee my extinction.
MATTER: That is absolutely true. The way I run things up here in Minnesota was low key. You don't draw attention to yourself. That's the way I tried to keep it.
And I don't see the clubs ever retaliating against the police officers. I mean although, you know, it could happen. I'm not saying it can't. I don't think there will be any retaliation there in Waco against law enforcement at all. I think it's against the two clubs that are involved and I don't think it will be in Waco. Unfortunately it will go on, though.
TAPPER: All right. Pat Matter, former president of the Minnesota Hells Angels. Thank you so much. We appreciate it.
MATTER: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: Coming up, it's been a month since she's taken questions directly from reporters. But today, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton finally faced the media. How did she respond when asked about her family's wealth and the tens of millions of dollars she's made from speeches? That's coming up.
Plus, an estimated $3 million worth of jewels and cash stolen by brazen thieves. Now police say they've arrested nine suspects, including a man who is pushing 80.
[16:26:40] TAPPER: Welcome back to the lead. I'm Jake Tapper.
The politics lead today: for the first time in nearly a month, Hillary Clinton, the front-running Democratic presidential candidate, is no longer dodging those pesky reporters and their annoying questions about things like e-mails and servers and contributions to the Clinton Foundation. Now, whether Clinton would take those questions seemed up in the air at first today.
Here's her initial response when asked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I might. I'll have to ponder it. But I will put it on my list for due consideration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Instead of just another low key event in Iowa today, the former secretary of state took five questions from reporters.
Jeff Zeleny joins me live from Cedars Falls, Iowa. He's CNN senior Washington correspondent.
So, Jeff, what did the reporters ask and how did she respond? What did she say?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, she responded with a bit of veiled humor I would say. I'm not sure she' pleased the answer the questions but she certainly knew they were coming.
And as you said, she talked about the Clinton Foundation, she talked about the e-mails, she talked about the speaking fees and she talked about Iraq -- something that's tripped up Republicans.
But, look, she's very practiced at answering all of these questions. She's just decided that she didn't want to until today
CLINTON: Hey, are y'all ready? Tell me something I don't know.
ZELENY (voice-over): It wasn't exactly Hillary Clinton unplugged, but for the first time in 28 days, she answered questions on the campaign trail --
CLINTON: Well, hello, everyone.
ZELENY: -- about those e-mails as secretary of state.
CLINTON: I have said repeatedly, I want those e-mails out. Nobody has a bigger interest in getting them released than I do.
ZELENY: The State Department initially said it could take until January to release all 55,000 pages. A judge said today they should come sooner in smaller batches.
Clinton said she agreed, even though her insistence on using a private e-mail server as secretary of state started the whole controversy.
CLINTON: I'm repeating it in front of all of you today. I want them out as soon as they can get out.
ZELENY: On her second visit to Iowa, she hoped to talk about reviving small businesses. But the criticism for not taking questions as other candidates do has dogged her. So, she relented and even flashed a smile until we asked about what kind of relationship she would have if elected president with old controversial allies.
CLINTON: I have many, many old friends.
ZELENY: The particular friend in question is Sidney Blumenthal, who sent her private e-mails on Libya which she passed around the government. She did not say whether she knew he had business interests at stake. CLINTON: He sent me unsolicited e-mails which I passed on. I'm going
to keep talking to my old friends whoever they are.
ZELENY: She also defended the Clinton Foundation and its foreign donations.
CLINTON: I am so proud of the foundation. I'm proud of the work that it has done and that it is doing. I'll let the American people make their own judgments about that.
ZELENY: On the Iraq war, an issue tripping up Republicans, she made her regret clear.
CLINTON: I know that there have been a lot of questions about Iraq posed to candidates over the last weeks. I've made it very clear that I made a mistake, plain and simple.
ZELENY: Finally, she also said her wealth, $25 million for 104 speeches since January of 2014, wouldn't make it harder to connect to those everyday Americans she talks about on the campaign trail.
CLINTON: Obviously, Bill and I have been blessed and we're very grateful for the opportunities that we had. But we've never forgotten where we came from.