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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

California Fires; Republican Debate Participants?; California Inferno: Fast-Moving Wildfire Jumps Containment Line; Planned Parenthood Controversy: New Graphic Video Released by Anti-Abortion Group. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired August 4, 2015 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:12]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: It's like March Madness for political junkies. Welcome to selection Tuesday.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The politics lead. Who is in, who is out? In less than one hour, we could find out which Republican candidates made the cut for the first debate of the 2016 presidential race, and which will be banished to the so-called kids table. We already know there could be one pretty big surprise.

The national lead, a huge wildfire leaving a critical containment line; 13,000 Californians are told to get out as firefighters battle some of the driest conditions ever to try and stop it.

Also in national news, it's being blamed for murderous freak-outs across the country. And now police are issuing a new serious warning about synthetic pot. What is it?

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

It's deadline day, which means if you work for a Republican candidate running for president, or if you are a Republican candidate running for president, you probably hear this blaring in your head right now. Republicans are just minutes away from officially finding out if they made the cut for Thursday's debate.

They will find out at the end of the hour. Remember, there are 17 big Republican candidates and only the top 10 in certain national polls will get a podium on the main stage. We do not know yet which candidates made the final cut. But a glut of shiny new poll numbers, that gives us a pretty good idea.

It looks as though the only way Rick Perry will make it on to that stage is if he takes a lesson from Tonya Harding.

Let's get right to CNN chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

Dana, we think we know the top 10 here, but the true of the matter is, our friends over FOX News, which is running the first debate, they haven't let us know which polls they're using, so there could be a surprise or two.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We don't know the polls and they have suggested that if there is a tie for 10th place, maybe there could be an extra person on the stage.

But the other thing is, there's pressure on FOX and the Republican National Committee to be as inclusive as possible, especially since there are candidates that show GOP diversity and experience who will not make that cut. Some did get a chance to shine last night.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): A sneak preview of sorts of what a crowded Republican stage looks like, with one glaring exception, no Donald Trump. The GOP front-runner is leading the presidential pack in two new polls out today, one from CBS news at 24 percent, and the other from Bloomberg at 21 percent.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have had great success and they just -- and people see that, and I would put all of that energy and whatever that brainpower is, whatever that type of brain into making our country successful.

BASH: The key question ahead of the first GOP presidential debate Thursday is how the other candidates will navigate the Trump dynamic. Sources close to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker say he plans to pivot as much as possible to his own record fighting for conservative principles.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R-WI), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think, in the end, what will make the difference and how we win the nomination is people realize they don't just want a fighter, they want someone who can fight and win.

BASH: Then there's Ohio Governor John Kasich's unorthodox approach.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Maybe I will give him a hug. I don't know.

BASH: Speaking of Kasich, new polls out today make it apparent that he will edge out the man who has been itching for a fight against Trump, former Texas Governor Rick Perry.

RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump's candidacy is a cancer on conservatism.

BASH: Of the 17 Republican candidates, only the 10 polling highest nationally can participate in the first debate. According to CNN poll of polls, this is what the stage will look like, Donald Trump, former Governor Jeb Bush, Governor Scott Walker, neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Governor Mike Huckabee, Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, and Governors Chris Christie and John Kasich.

That leaves seven other candidates hunting for attention in other ways, like Lindsey Graham, who helped prosecute Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial. SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm fluent in Clinton speak. You want me to translate, Jack? When he says, Bills says I didn't have sex with that woman, he did. When she says I will tell you about building the pipeline when I get to be president means she won't.

BASH: Meanwhile, Trump is setting his sights today not on an opponent, but on a Web site, Gawker, which posted one of his cell phone numbers so he changed the voice-mail.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hi. This is Donald Trump, and I'm running for the presidency of the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Most of the GOP campaigns I have talked to insist they're not going to set their sights on Trump. Many have been practicing how to react if he turns on them, though Trump has made clear it's not going to be personal. At least, Jake, that's not the plan.

[16:05:00]

TAPPER: He said he would counterpunch, but not punch.

BASH: Exactly.

TAPPER: We will see what happens.

Thanks so much, Dana Bash.

CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny also here.

Jeff, let's talk about Jeb Bush for a second. He's obviously going to be on the stage, but it wasn't that long ago, just a few months ago, there were Republicans thinking about not running because they feared the Bush juggernaut. Where is the campaign now?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, a juggernaut, it's definitely not.

No question about that. But the campaign mind-set has gone from riding out the Trump summertime boomlet for settling in for the long haul and wondering whether something more troubling is actually going on. If you look at our CNN poll of polls, Bush is now at 13 percent.

He's consistently double digits behind Trump. Now, there is no question the Republican base is reckless, angry and looking for something authentic and new. Jeb Bush is not necessarily any of the above. But if you talk to his supporters and advisers, they believe this dynamic in the race cannot continue forever.

But that is certainly an open question. Don't forget, we're in the sixth year of the Tea Party. This is not his father's or his brother's Republican Party. That still seems to be something hanging over Jeb Bush, how to deal with the family name. We saw that last night at the GOP candidate forum in New Hampshire. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My dad is probably the most perfect man alive, so it's really hard for me to be critical of him. In fact, I have got a T-shirt that says, at the Jeb swag store, that says, I'm the -- my dad is the greatest man alive, if you don't like it, I will take you outside.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: One sign of worry for the Bush campaign, his unfavorable numbers have climbed over the last month. Several of his Republican rivals, as Dana said, are going to great lengths to get attention.

Cruz is firing bacon on a machine gun. Rand Paul is cutting the tax code with a chain saw. Don't look for Jeb Bush to do any of this. He is running as the mature candidate in the race. The question is whether the base is looking for that type of candidate right now and will they be by the fall?

But Bush supporters see a silver lining in all of this. Their Right to Rise super PAC has $100 million to spend, and Bush has not aired a single campaign ad yet to define his record in Florida, but look for that some time soon. They can't allow the summertime slump to continue, and the debate on Thursday, as Dana says, we all know, offers an opportunity for Jeb Bush to show he's ready for office.

But, Jake, the question is, is the conservatives -- are the conservatives in the party looking for him or a candidate who burns slightly hotter?

TAPPER: Unmistakably, his father and brother, and the way they were president are the reason in many cases for the rise of the Tea Party.

ZELENY: No doubt at all.

TAPPER: Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

Let's talk about all of this, about the debate and everything else 2016 with Republican strategist Katie Packer, who worked for Mitt Romney, and CNN political commentator Dan Pfeiffer, who worked for President Obama.

Katie, you just heard Jeff list off some troubling issues for the Bush campaign. If you were advising him, what would you tell Jeb Bush?

KATIE PACKER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think at the moment Jeb is doing what Jeb should be doing, is he's trying to rise above this circus fiasco element that has kind of taken shape within the Republican primary right now.

He's the guy that's running with some grace and some dignity. He has a lot of money that he's sitting on and he has an opportunity to spend that sometime soon. But I think he will be looking to just sort of rise above it all and show some dignity on stage.

TAPPER: Do you think the Republican -- they tend to at the end of the day go with the more moderate candidate, the more "mature" candidate showing grace and dignity. But do you think the Republican electorate right now is looking for grace and dignity? Or are they looking for somebody with a little bit more fight in them?

DAN PFEIFFER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's clear from the polls they're looking for someone with a lot of fight, because Donald Trump is doubling up everyone else. He's 10 points ahead of Jeb Bush, ahead of Scott Walker, ahead of these more legitimate serious candidates.

Look, Bush's candidacy was premised on the idea he would be the strongest, most electable candidate. Three months or so after he announced, it's clear he's not. I think he has to make radical changes. I suggested today on CNN.com that he pull out of Iowa and move to New Hampshire, because he's going to lose Iowa and he can afford to do that.

He cannot afford to lose to New Hampshire. To lose in New Hampshire, he's done. I think he has to make some radical changes.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Why do you think he's going to lose Iowa? Mitt Romney almost won Iowa. He came just -- he was just a hair's breadth away from Rick Santorum. Theoretically, isn't Jeb the most Mitt-like of them all?

PFEIFFER: I think two things. Mitt was running in a very different field. Right? This is a much stronger field with much more serious candidates.

Almost none of the Republican opponents that Katie's candidate was running against in 2012 ran real campaigns. Walker's running a real campaign. Marco Rubio's running a real campaign. Santorum has had experience there. Romney had an advantage Bush doesn't have, which is he had an existing organization and supporter network from his 2004 race in Iowa.

Bush is at a disadvantage. This is a much more conservative electorate than he's positioned himself. They are angry at the establishment. And so he should go where he has a better chance of winning, and you can ask Presidents Santorum and Huckabee how important it was to win Iowa for them.

TAPPER: Right.

But, Katie, let me ask you, it looks, if you look at the polls, that there are fewer and fewer Republicans who say they would never vote for Donald Trump. It used to be, he had like 20 percent, but there was a huge number that wouldn't vote for him.

[16:10:08]

That number keeps getting smaller and smaller. He's supposedly is investing in a ground game in Iowa. He's leading the polls in New Hampshire. Is it time for Republicans like Jeb Bush and others to stop thinking, this is just some fluke that's going to go away at any moment? This isn't the next Herman Cain. He is the front-runner.

PACKER: I don't know that we know that it is not the next Herman Cain. We saw something very similar with Cain, with Perry, with...

TAPPER: Michele Bachmann.

PACKER: Bachmann, a whole host of them. It was a bit like Whac-A- Mole back in 2012.

But I do think what you're looking at is a very big field. Trump is at 21, 22 percent. You have to think that that's sort of a ceiling for this guy. He's at the height of the attention he's going to get in the course of this primary and he's getting 22 percent.

That tells me 78 percent of Republicans are saying he's not my guy. I don't think this is a Trump or Bush situation. There are some really strong really candidates, as Dan mentioned, that I think are going to have their time in the sun, and it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

TAPPER: Let's look at the Democratic side for a second. Dan, check out the favorability numbers for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton among some key groups here, independents, 27 percent favorability, that's down 7 percent from June. Young voters 18-34, 41 percent favorability, down from 46 percent in June. Women voters, 41 percent favorability, down from 52 percent in June. Dan, these are not good numbers for Hillary Clinton.

PFEIFFER: No, I will admit that, these are not good numbers, but I would say a couple things.

One, look, she's had a rough summer. She's been through the ringer all summer on a whole host of things. But I think the thing that we have to look at is, in this race right now, Hillary Clinton is acting as the de facto incumbent. We're not testing Hillary Clinton against a specific Republican, we're testing Hillary Clinton against -- as the vice president always says, don't compare me to the almighty. Compare me to the alternative.

And Obama had similar numbers in the summer of 2011. Once people started paying more attention to the Republican primary and they saw he might be running against someone like Mitt Romney or even Herman Cain or Michele Bachmann or someone like that, the president's numbers went up.

If, when people focus on this race, her numbers don't improve, then I think it's a real challenge. I don't think it's fair to say right now that this show she's going to be a weak candidate in November. I think she will be a very strong candidate.

TAPPER: Katie, one question I always ask Republicans is don't they think shouldn't there needs to be -- assuming Carly Fiorina doesn't get the nomination, shouldn't there be a woman on the ticket? Just because I think there are going to be a lot of Republican women

-- I guess we will see what the numbers are in November 2016. But there will be a lot of Republican women who when they get in the privacy of the voting booth want to be part of history, because there have been 44 men and no women as president. Do you think that's something Republicans should consider?

PACKER: I think you're not going to out-woman a woman that is at the top of the ticket.

If there's woman that are voting just for a candidate that happens to be a woman, the person at the top of the ticket is probably going to hold that. But if Hillary Clinton's numbers are diving into the tank when Donald Trump is the face of the Republican Party for the last several weeks, I hate to see what happens to her numbers when we actually have a really, good strong candidate that's the face of the party.

TAPPER: Assuming it's not Donald Trump. We don't know that.

(CROSSTALK)

PACKER: I said a good strong candidate.

TAPPER: Katie, Dan Pfeiffer, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

Our national lead now, some huge flames jumping highways, claiming tens of thousands of acres and dozens of homes. Firefighters in California finally catching a couple breaks. But for some residents forced to flee, it might be too late to save their neighborhoods -- that story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:17:45] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Our national lead today: California firefighters continue to battle wildfires that erupted late last week, the most massive and mercurial is called the Rocky Fire north of San Francisco. It's burning through 65,000 acres in this drought ravaged state. The Rocky Fire bursts through the containment line Monday afternoon is causing new spot fires now, potentially making matters worst. Thunderstorms and more lightning are in the forecast for the area, to possibly ignite even more of this tinderbox.

CNN's Paul Vercammen is in Colusa County, one of the counties affected by the Rock Fire -- Paul.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, some good news this morning, as you can see behind me, this is where they lit a backfire yesterday to go ahead with this containment line. But the weather has really calmed down. You don't see any wind, temperature is down, and it's even slightly overcast. For the people who are standing by and waiting to get back to their homes, this is good news, but they are still waiting for that magic word, which is -- term -- which is: go home.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VERCAMMEN (voice-over): At the Rocky Fire in Colusa County, a test of wills, a stubborn fire pushed and revived at times by erratic winds, versus many self-reliant rural people who live here, because there are fewer folks around to tell them what to do.

Wills were tested when word came for about 13,000 of them to evacuate as the Rocky Fire exploded.

JOE WELZ, ROCKY FIRE EVACUEE: When you start seeing smoke plumes come up that are severe black, you know they're in the brush, and they're not that far away. This is a problem. You look at it, it's time to go. And when you see flames -- when you see flames, it's really time to leave.

VERCAMMEN: So, just where did Joe Welz, resident of this back country for 27 years, go? The Moose Lodge. That's right, Moose Lodge -- often a hub for bingo and karaoke, and now, a haven to ride out a fire that's burned more than 65,000 acres. Lodge volunteers say 200 to 300 people sheltered here overnight, donated food is piled up on tables, free pie and French toast.

RHIANNON GARCIA, VOLUNTEER: It's not part of the Red Cross. Nothing government, this is all community here. This is a community at its finest.

[16:20:01] VERCAMMEN: Rhiannon Garcia and her displaced visitors hang on weather reports.

GARCIA: You can take a breath. Right now when I woke up this morning, I saw it hadn't grown, still contained, everybody was safe, it was like -- whew, finally, they -- we need a break. They need -- they need a break, and we need a break.

VERCAMMEN: A break because the Rocky Fire is unpredictable. Jumping Highway 20 late Monday and messing up any thoughts of leaving the Moose Lodge for home. More food arrived.

ERIK AUSTIN, MAKESHIFT SHELTER: I asked for a little help, look at this room. This community has come together, it's beautiful.

VERCAMMEN: In a wicked fire, a bingo hall can look like the Taj Mahal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERCAMMEN: And back here live, another reason for some optimism, they say some very well-placed water drops and air tanker drops -- Jake.

TAPPER: Let's hope so.

Paul Vercammen in Colusa County, thank you so much.

Thousands of Californians have been forced to evacuate their homes and as the fires continue to burn, they don't know when they're going to be able to return to those homes.

I'm joined by one of these evacuees, Joyce Carreia, who's now at a Red Cross in Middletown California, about 30 miles from her home, which is in the Rocky Fire zone.

Joyce, thanks for joining us.

When did you evacuate? Tell us about that experience.

JOYCE CARREIA, EVACUEE (via telephone): I was evacuated Sunday evening, around 8:00 p.m. So --

TAPPER: Did people come to your door and tell you to leave? Did they --

CARREIA: The sheriff's department came, yes.

TAPPER: Is your house OK as of now, as far as you know?

CARREIA: As far as I know, yes, they -- when the fire jumped last night, when it jumped over 20 unto New Long Valley Road, that's actually the road I live on, but I'm a couple miles, in and they did catch that. So, my home should be fine.

TAPPER: So, your home is -- your home was a couple miles away from the fire at one point?

CARREIA: Yes.

TAPPER: Do you have any idea when you're going to be able to return home?

CARREIA: Well, no. There's a rumor, maybe tomorrow, but that's kind of hopeful.

TAPPER: You're staying at a Red Cross, is that right?

CARREIA: Yes. That's Middletown High School.

TAPPER: And are -- is your family with you, are your neighbors with you as well?

CARREIA: Actually, I met a lot of neighbors. It's kind of nice in that way, you meet people you never saw before. But, yes, I don't have family, so --

TAPPER: All right.

CARREIA: Everybody as far as I know is fine and got out. That's the important part. So --

TAPPER: Well, that is the important part. Joyce, thank you so much. We're glad you're OK, and we hope your house stays safe.

CARREIA: Thank you. I hope so too.

TAPPER: All right. Thanks, Joyce.

CARREIA: Bye-bye.

TAPPER: Coming up on THE LEAD: the controversy that isn't going away about the Planned Parenthood sting videos. A brand new undercover video released hours ago by the anti-abortion group. And that group says that this one is even more shocking than the rest. We'll bring you that story, next.

Plus, another video getting a lot of attention. A school police officer putting a third grader in handcuffs as he begs to be released. Now, the student's family is suing. That story ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OFFICER: It's your decision to behave this way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:27:27] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Making headlines in politics today: Anti-abortion activists releasing a fifth graphic undercover video. This one allegedly showing a Planned Parenthood official discussing whether doctors would alter an abortion procedure in order to better preserve fetal tissues and organs for medical research. This comes in the wake of the U.S. Senate failing to pass a measure that would have stripped the health care organization of its federal funding. Planned Parenthood officials insist they do not illegally profit from the sale of fetal tissue and that these edited videos are misleading.

Let's get right to CNN's Joe Johns.

Joe, the vote may have failed last night, but it seems very clear that this fight is far from over.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. Called this the latest sign. This controversy over the use of fetal issues in research is going to stick around for a while. Some congressional Republicans are talking about linking the fight over Planned Parenthood to a possible government shutdown battle this fall, and the release of another controversial video today that's just adding fuel to the fire.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): The latest video in a sustained effort to undermine support for Planned Parenthood refreezes the dramatic effects that have helped the Center for Medical Progress stoke the growing controversy. Edited undercover video with a Planned Parenthood research director in Texas talking about extracting intact fetus cadavers and body parts from abortions for use in fetal tissue research. PLANNED PARENTHOOD RESEARCH DIRECTOR: Anything that we integrate into

that procedure without having you cover the procedural costs is going to be higher.

BUYER: Right.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD RESEARCH DIRECTOR: So, anything of a higher gestational age, there's more opportunity for complications.

JOHNS: Interspersed with talk about budgets and money.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD RESEARCH DIRECTOR: If we alter a process, and we are able to obtain intact fetal cadavers, then we can make it part of the budget that any dissections are this, and splitting the specimens into different shipments is this -- I mean, that's all just a matter of line testimonies.

JOHNS: The end of the video includes graphic pictures of what is described as fetal tissue with the voices of the actors who posed as representatives of a company that collects tissue samples, asking questions and identifying body parts, with Planned Parenthood lab technicians.

Today, even before it was released, the leader of the group responsible for the video predicted it would have more impact than the other productions.

DAVID DALEIDEN, CENTER FOR MEDICAL PROGRESS: It's perhaps going to be even more shocking. You're going to see evidence in it of how Planned Parenthood is actually willing to sell fully intact fetuses to buyers of aborted fetal tissue.

JOHNS: Planned Parenthood, facing a sustained push in Congress to stop the group from getting government funding, is in full damage control mode.