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U.S. Trying to Keep Russia In Check; Texas Police Officer Murdered; Ben Carson's Star Rising; D.A.: Accused Cop-Killer Shot Deputy 15 Times; U.S. Deploys Drones as Protesters Clash in Ukraine. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired August 31, 2015 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Kanye West, I'm going to let you finish, but Donald Trump had one of the wildest months in presidential politics of all time.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The politics lead. With Mr. Trump hitting the presidential race like a wrecking ball, another un-candidate has quietly popped up right next to him in a brand-new poll. Is Dr. Ben Carson the prescription for Republicans who are totally sick of politicians?

The national lead, shot in the back, killed in cold blood. The man accused of ambushing a deputy execution-style paraded passed officers in court today. Was the father of two killed simply because of his badge?

The world lead, do you even lift, comrade? Vladimir Putin showing off as the old Kalashnikovs, as the U.S. flexes some muscle of its own, trying to keep Russia from trying to run over another neighbor.

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

Our politics lead, objects in rear-view mirror may be closer than they appear. If you're Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton and today you woke up and decided to ignore that warning, well, you might not like what you see over your shoulder. "The Des Moines Register"'s Iowa poll released over the weekend shows Dr. Ben Carson and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders nipping at the respective heels of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

And today you can smell the rubber burning in Trump world, as another big yellow caution flag comes out for the man in the front of the pack, because Donald Trump now has to share the front-runner title with Carson, at least in Iowa, at least according to one poll from Monmouth University.

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

Dana, Donald Trump says he's been very nice to Dr. Ben Carson, but now that Carson is pulling even with him in Iowa, how long do you expect that to last? DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Knowing him,

probably not so much.

But this poll you were just talking about, it really reinforces the number one message so far from Republican voters this election cycle. That is, if you're a senator, if you're a governor, if you're a congressman, just a regular politician, they're not so interested. A reality star, a physician for president, now you're talking.


BASH (voice-over): Donald Trump is now getting a run for his money in Iowa by another non-politician.


BASH: Ben Carson. A new poll has the pediatric neurosurgeon at 23 percent, neck and neck with the billionaire, who had been uncharacteristically easy on Carson.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's a nice guy. I can't hit him. He's been so nice to me. It's true. I cannot hit him.

BASH: And even more evidence that voters are desperate for a political outsider, behind Trump and Carson in this new poll is former CEO Carly Fiorina at 10 percent. None of the three has ever been in elected office. In fourth, Ted Cruz, freshman senator who appeals as an outsider, and down to fifth place, lifelong politician Scott Walker.

TRUMP: The only thing constant is Trump.

BASH: But it's still Trump driving the discussion in the GOP field, now setting his sights on Hillary Clinton's longtime adviser Huma Abedin, questioning her judgment in being married to Anthony Weiner, who resigned come Congress in 2011 after tweeting lewd pictures of himself.

TRUMP: She's married to Anthony Weiner, the little bing, bing, bing.

I love you very much.

BASH: He even raised questions about whether Abedin shared classified information, saying on Twitter today: "Huma Abedin, the top aide to Hillary Clinton and the wife of perv sleaze bag Anthony Weiner, was a major security risk as a collector of info."

A Clinton spokesman shot back, calling Trump disgraceful, saying: "Donald Trump has spent the summer saying things about women, but there is no place for patently false personal attacks against a staff member."

Make no mistake, Trump is also staying on the offensive inside the GOP, releasing this new Instagram video against Jeb Bush.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's an act of love. BASH: And Trump is clearly having an impact on policy, pulling may in

the GOP field to the right on immigration. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker now says he's open to a wall, not just with Mexico, but Canada.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R-WI), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some law enforcement folks that brought that up to me at one of our town hall meetings about a week-and-a-half ago. So, that is a legitimate issue for this to look at.

BASH: And Chris Christie signed on to an idea to stop immigrants from overstaying their visas illegally by tracking them FedEx style.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to have a system that tracks you from the moment you come in. And then when your time is up, then we go get you and tap you on the shoulder and say, excuse me, thanks for coming, time to go. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: That's also an example of a politician, Chris Christie, showing that he gets innovation happens in business and that the government doesn't always get it. But, Jake, voters may not be listening.

This latest poll shows 66 percent of caucus-goers would rather have somebody outside of government than somebody who has experience in government, even if they can show that that was positive experience. That might be another reason why Scott Walker dropped 15 points in a month in this poll.


TAPPER: It's just fascinating, Trump, Carson, Fiorina. All three, none of them held ever elective office. Dana Bash, thank you so much.

Let's talk about the Democratic field right now -- there's a lot of unrest there -- with CNN senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns.

Joe, Clinton still leaning in Iowa. But this poll out from over the weekend, "The Des Moines Register" poll, shows she's lost a third of her support in Iowa among Democrats since May.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Extraordinary. It invites a comparison to what happened to Hillary Clinton's campaign in 2008, though some would say it's too early to make that jump. What we do know is how strong Bernie Sanders is running in Iowa and that his supporters appear to be excited about his campaign and that's what the latest poll out of Iowa is telling us.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That is not Hillary Clinton's position.

JOHNS (voice-over): Bernie Sanders ratcheting up his rhetoric against the longtime Democratic front-runner as a new poll shows him surging in Iowa. Clinton still leads in the early voting state 37 percent to 30 percent. But the trend is troubling for her. In May, Clinton was at 57 percent. But since then, she's lost a staggering third of her support.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is going to be competitive. It should be competitive. It's only the presidency of the United States we're talking about.

JOHNS: She's been called the inevitable nominee before and maintained she's always expected the race to heat up.

SANDERS: We need a movement which takes on the economic and political establishment.

JOHNS: Sanders' popularity growing as he touts his progressive credentials and drawing a sharper contrast with the policy differences dividing the two candidates.

SANDERS: I believe we should expand Social Security by lifting the cap on taxable income. That's not Hillary Clinton's position.

I believe that we have got to raise the minimum wage over a period of several years to $15 an hour -- not Hillary Clinton's position. I voted against the war in Iraq. Hillary Clinton voted for it.

JOHNS: Meanwhile, she's now pursuing a more aggressive approach to the e-mail controversy that has long dogged her campaign.

CLINTON: I know people have raised questions about my e-mail use as secretary of state, and I understand why. I get it. I never sent any classified material, nor received any marked classified.

JOHNS: But the questions over her use of a private e-mail server are sure to continue as the State Department releases another batch of her e-mails tonight. The release will include roughly 150 e-mails that have been retroactively upgraded to classified.

Democrats polled in Iowa largely said Clinton's use of e-mail didn't bother them. But one sign of concern, those who support Sanders said they felt more strongly about him than those who said they backed Clinton.


JOHNS: And what if Joe Biden gets into the race? "The Des Moines Register" also asked about that and said the vice president got 14 percent. He takes away roughly the same amount of support from each of the front-runners on the Democratic side.

TAPPER: Unpredictable on both sides, Democrats and Republicans.

Joe Johns, thank you so much.

Let's talk about all this with CNN political commentators Republican strategist Kevin Madden and Democratic strategist Patti Solis Doyle.

Lots of hits coming fast and furious in addition to some very poll numbers. I want to start with this Instagram, Kevin, that Trump posted today taking a whack at Jeb Bush on immigration. Let's post that.


BUSH: Yes. They broke the law. But it's not a felony. It's kind of a -- it's an act of love.


TAPPER: That is some tough stuff. I have heard some commentators compare that to the Willie Horton ad that was run against Jeb Bush's father's opponent, Mike Dukakis, a while ago. Dating myself.

What is your take on that?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think three things.

The first is that Donald Trump knows that this immigration issue is really what brought him a lot of goodwill with some of his supporters. The more he keeps hammering on it, the more they like it. I think the second thing is he just loves going after Jeb Bush. He knows, A, it's going to get more attention and then he also knows that it's allowing him to consolidate some of this anti-establishment support and anti- establishment fervor within the party that is out there.

The third thing is, he gets so much free media off this. An Instagram account is now going to be played over and over on a loop on TV. It's free advertising for him. It's something he's done really well since his entrance into the race just a few weeks ago.

TAPPER: Patti, I would be remiss if we acted like the tough talk was only coming from Republicans. I want you to take a listen to something that Hillary Clinton said on the subject of immigration and illegal immigrants and rounding up the 11 million on Friday night.


CLINTON: I find it the height of irony that a party which espouses small government would want to unleash a massive law enforcement effort, including perhaps National Guard and others, to go and literally pull people out of their homes and their workplaces, round them up, put them, I don't know, in buses, boxcars in order to take them across our border. I just find that not only absurd, but appalling.



TAPPER: A lot of conservatives objecting to the image of boxcars. They feel like she was trying to invoke the Holocaust, people going off to concentration camps, but the campaign insisting that's not what she meant.

Does she run a risk here overplaying her hand at all by invoking the Holocaust or seeming to, using some very strong rhetoric?

PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think she was invoking the Holocaust, first and foremost.

But I don't think she runs a risk at all. I think Donald Trump has put forth a policy on immigration that is completely void of humanity. I think when Hillary Clinton points that out, I think it's good for her and I think it's good for the country, because he has set a tone that, frankly, is kind of dangerous.

TAPPER: Kevin, you're somebody, you're a Republican establishment figure. You don't talk like Donald Trump on immigration and you have worked for people who have had tough policies on immigration. Are you worried at all?

MADDEN: I'm very worried. I think what's happened to the party is that we become fully defined on this issue by what we're against rather than what we're for.

I think that's a very difficult place. Look, the math is very simple on this. If Republicans don't do a better job of getting Hispanic voters, we won't win the White House. We have to get over at least 40 percent. A lot of this other talk is just a lot of noise unless we come to that realization.

It's why in 2012 when the party did an autopsy, it was one of the top recommendations, that we need to do a better job of talking to Hispanics about what a modernized immigration system, consistent with enforcement, but also with welcoming Hispanic voters and immigrants here to this country as part of a larger economic argument. We lose that when it becomes defined by what we're against.

TAPPER: Patti, I want to ask you, while we're speaking about autopsies, when you look at the numbers from Iowa, in which Hillary Clinton is losing support, you're a former campaign manager from the 2008 campaign, she's losing support -- there seems to be more excitement for Bernie Sanders.

I think it might be a stretch for a lot of people to say that Bernie Sanders equals Barack Obama. But do you worry for her?

SOLIS DOYLE: Look, the "Des Moines Register" poll came out over the weekend. I think they said it's looking like 2008 all over again. Those are some powerful words. Obviously, I still have a little PTSD from that.

But, look, I may not be toeing the company line on this. I think competitive primaries are a good thing. I think they're good for the process. I think they're good for the voters, because they get to kick the can -- or kick the tires on the candidates.

I think they're good for the candidates, particularly Hillary Clinton, because she's always better when she's fighting, whether it's for women and families or for the middle class or in this case for her candidacy. She's always better. I think you are going to see a stronger candidate in the next few weeks.

TAPPER: All right, Patti Solis Doyle, Kevin Madden, thank you both. Really appreciate it. This programming note. You can watch the next Republican presidential

debates right here on CNN. They're coming up two weeks from Wednesday, September 16, at the Reagan Library. I will be moderating, assisted by my friends Dana Bash and Hugh Hewitt. That's two weeks from Wednesday.

The national lead, a deadly ambush taking the life of a deputy. Today, a line of fellow deputies stood in silence as the accused cop killer entered the courtroom. We learned more what about police say he did, but what about why? That's next.


[16:17:49] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

A horrible story in our national lead: new details revealed in court today in the murder of a sheriff's deputy in Texas. Deputy Darren Goforth was killed as he filled up his car at a Houston gas station over the weekend. Suspected killer Shannon Miles faced a judge in court today. Prosecutors described how they say Miles shot Goforth in the head and stood over the deputy and unloaded his .40 caliber pistol.

Let's go to CNN's Ed Lavandera, live in Houston where this ambush happened.

Ed, we see behind you, there's a massive response from the community. Tell us about it.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is pump number eight here at the Chevron station. This is a gas station popular among sheriff's deputies in this part of northwest Harris County where sheriff deputies would come and refuel and stop in for a cup of coffee and that sort of thing.

Over the weekend and into today, people dropping off flowers and Teddy bears, messages of condolences for the family as well and taking up a collection. So far in the last couple of days, $80,000 at this location alone has been raised for the wife and two children of deputy Darren Goforth.

TAPPER: The fellow deputies who serve with Goforth, they line the walls of that courtroom earlier today. Describe the emotion during that hearing.

LAVANDERA: It was so intense, Jake. Shannon Miles, the suspect, the man accused of murdering Darren Goforth, accused of capital murder who faces the death penalty. When he walked in, it was extremely quiet. Several dozen sheriff's deputies inside that courtroom watching all of this unfold. The prosecutor laid out in the most detail we've heard yet just exactly how they say Shannon Miles ambushed and killed Deputy Goforth.


DEVON ANDERSON, HARRIS COUNTY PROSECUTOR: He had evidently pumped gas, went inside and then was walking back to his patrol car and as you see the video, you see the male get out of the car, wearing a white t-shirt, red shorts, tennis shoes and he runs up behind Deputy Goforth and puts a gun to the back of his head and shoots.


LAVANDERA: And, in fact, the prosecutor says he unloaded 15 times, the shell casings here. They have ballistics here that a gun later found in Miles' home matches the shell casings found here at the scene, Jake.

[16:20:06] TAPPER: Ed, quickly if you would, what we didn't hear from prosecutors today was motive. But the sheriff has talked about heated rhetoric that he thinks is putting bull's eyes on police officers. Tell us about that.

LAVANDERA: Right. The day after the murder for the sheriff very intense with the anti-police rhetoric drawing a link between this shooting and the intense rhetoric we've seen over the last year since the shootings in Ferguson. But when we asked again today about whether or not there's been specific motive outlined by Shannon Miles in any kind of questioning by investigators, the prosecutor today refused to answer those questions.

TAPPER: All right. Ed Lavandera, thank you so much.

Coming up, how do Russian leaders spend their free time? Well, if you're President Putin, you're in the gym. But is this new PR push meant to be a distraction from the violent intention just over the border?

Plus, Pats quarterback Tom Brady back in court again today. But with no settlement reached, will Brady get to play in the first game of the season?


[16:25:36] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

The world lead now: a deadly battle now escalating in Ukraine. But this time it's the protesters on the doorstep of the parliament causing the violence.

A chaotic scene in Kiev today after an explosion went off. A protester threw a grenade, the blast so powerful that it killed a Ukrainian national guard soldier. Demonstrators are upset over a vote to give more autonomy to sections of Ukraine controlled by Russian separatists.

The violence comes as the U.S. and NATO allies are ramping up military exercises right off of Russia's border.

Chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is following this from the Pentagon.

Jim, start us off with an explanation of the anger behind these protests and this explosion.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: So, this is Ukraine on Ukrainian violence, right? We're used to the Russians fighting the Ukrainians in the east. These are Ukrainians -- some of them are calling them nationalists, but they're pro-Ukrainians. You know, you don't necessarily have to label them that way.

The Ukrainian parliament just voted to give more autonomy to the eastern parts of the country where you have large Russian ethnic populations. Give them a little more autonomy, language, local government, et cetera. And these folks protesting that, see that as too much of a concession to Russia in effect.

Now, the government, the president who is backed by the west, he says this is just a way to bring peace, we're going to maintain control of our country. There are differences of opinion.

TAPPER: Basically, as a slippery slope.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. No question.

TAPPER: What's the Pentagon saying about the drones it's deployed in Latvia, right next to Russia?

SCIUTTO: Right. So, Latvia, why do we care? It's a Baltic state. But it's also, as we were discussing, it's a NATO ally. So, the U.S. and NATO is required to defend it if Russia were to invade or in any other way threaten it.

This is part of a series of military steps that the U.S. has been taken. You may remember, there were F-15s deployed to the Baltics. They've been doing exercises in western Ukraine basically to reassure our Eastern European allies that the U.S. and NATO is watching. They're watching Russia. They will defend against any further aggression in Russia.

But keep in mind, these things are really tightly calibrated. These drones are going to be there for 15 days, until September 15th, and then they're going to leave. They're all temporary deployments to trying to calibrate something that reassures without antagonizing. There's a lot of disagreement about whether this is reassuring enough, or too antagonizing. But this is the way they're responding to fears that Russia, after Ukraine, might set its sights on some of these NATO allies in the north, the Baltics.

TAPPER: I'm sure they're terrified. But is there any indication that they're going to fly the drones, that the drones are going to buzz around the airspace?

SCIUTTO: They are. They're going to buzz around, just as they've been flying the F-15s on these Baltic air patrols. They're going to do stuff there. You know, they're not -- they're going to try not to threaten the Russians but they're going to make this a show of force.

TAPPER: All right. Jim Sciutto, thank you so much. SCIUTTO: Meanwhile in Russia, the Kremlin released a video this

weekend showing President Vladimir Putin finally answering the age-old question: Bro, do you even lift? Putin is featured in this video pumping iron before putting down protein, barbecued meats and drinking tea, naturally. Apparently, part of Putin's fitfam -- Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev.

Shockingly, the world leader/action man, often featured bare-chested riding horses or hunting or fishing, somehow resisted the urge to go shirtless during this morning lift session. Perhaps on leg day, he'll invade another sovereign nation.

A grim warning from Dick Cheney. The former vice president saying he's concerned about an attack potentially worse than 9/11. This time at the hands of ISIS. That story next.