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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Will Biden Run?; Illinois Manhunt; Donald Trump vs. Jeb Bush; Teen Urged Boyfriend to Kill Himself. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired September 2, 2015 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:10]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: It's the low-energy tortoise vs. the hair. That's hair, H-A-I-R. Get it?

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

Politics lead. No love lost between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, as the two Republican contenders fight over which one of them used to love Hillary Clinton more. And that's not the only thing promising fireworks at CNN's upcoming Republican debate.

The national lead. Manhunt, houses cleared, schools closed, the police using every tip, every piece of technology possible as they hunk for three alleged cop killers who could be hiding in plain sight.

Also in national, when are you going to do it? When are you going to do it? That's just one of the shocking text messages sent from a teenage girl now facing manslaughter charges for allegedly encouraging her boyfriend to kill himself, which he did. We will ask her attorney on the show why he says it was her constitutional right to say those things.

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

Our politics leads starts us off. The CNN Republican presidential debate is only 14 days away, but you're not going to have to wait until then to see the top contenders attacking each other. That's going on right now.

Just take a look at Donald Trump in isolation from every other Republican right now for president. He sounds like the old 700 level back at Phillies' Veteran Stadium. He's called people who have tried to take him off a dope, a loser, a phony, a moron, a dummy, a stiff, a lightweight, sleepy eyes, not a war hero, a perv, foolish, dishonest, needing to take an I.Q. test and the worst secretary of state in the history of the United States.

But the rival whom Trump has spent the most time trying to treat like a pinata, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, he finally sounds pretty mad. The past few days indicate he's not going to take it laying down.

I want to get right to CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash. Dana, today, the Bush campaign asking the Internet for people to take a quiz and choose between Bush's positions and Donald Trump's positions, his progressive past, really. It's just the latest salvo in an increasingly grueling match between these two.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. Jeb Bush is actually taking a rare day off the campaign trail today, but as promised by Bush sources, his campaign is still hard at work trying to show supporters and donors that despite Bush's laid-back demeanor, he and his team are primed for a fight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is not a guy who is a conservative.

BASH (voice-over): Jeb Bush's stepped-up strategy to go hard after Donald Trump turned tongue in cheek, a quiz released on social media, asking questions aimed at what Bush aides say underscores the contrast between Trump and Bush, like, would you rather support a candidate who said they were "very pro-choice or was a strongly pro-life governor and defunded Planned Parenthood"?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Go in and vote. Go in and vote.

BASH: And a rare personal jab from Jeb at Trump, known to be exceedingly fearful of germs. "Would you rather support a candidate who strives to shake every hand everywhere, or is a germaphobe when it comes to shaking hands?"

TRUMP: He's a very low-energy kind of guy. And he had to do something.

BASH: Trump, who calls himself a counterpuncher, did just that.

TRUMP: He's getting all of his money from people that are lobbyists and, you know, tough group of people. I know all of them, and they want him to do something, and he should do something, because he's got to fight back. He's way down in the polls.

BASH: All this as a new ABC News/"The Washington Post" poll shows both men suffering in the popularity department; 59 percent, nearly six in 10, have an unfavorable view of Trump. And Jeb Bush isn't doing much better with 55 percent.

Broken down by ethnic groups, despite often saying this:

TRUMP: I will win the Hispanic vote, and I think I will win it very easily.

BASH: Trump, who made waves from day one with comments about Mexican illegal immigrants, has a big problem with Hispanic voters. A whopping 82 percent have an unfavorable view of them. Jeb Bush speaks fluent Spanish, and even used it to attack Trump this week. His favorability rating is some 30 points higher than Trump among Hispanic, who are about equally divided about Bush.

Yet it is Trump's popularity with conservative primary voters his opponents are most focused on chipping away at now, and it's not only Jeb Bush.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump is really a fake conservative.

BASH: Rand Paul told CNN, over time and with effort, GOP voters will see Trump as a phony.

PAUL: Once people find out his positions, I think they are going to be sort of fleeing with their hair on fire. They're going to say, oh, my goodness, he is not really what he said he was, he's not really a conservative.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, you heard Jeb Bush speaking Spanish in that piece. He does that in public and even in his own house with his Mexican-born wife.

[16:05:02]

Jake, Trump did an interview just this afternoon with conservative Breitbart News. He said that Bush "should really set the example by speaking English while in the United States," and then Bush's spokesman shot back via Twitter, saying, "As Donald Trump tries to kill the party by attacking an American who is bilingual, Jeb is attracting new conservatives."

TAPPER: Vicious.

BASH: It sure is.

Dana Bash, thank you so much.

Let's turn now to the Democrats. Here's what Hillary Clinton's campaign would like the media to be talking about today, her plan to spend $10 billion to combat America's deadly epidemic of drug and alcohol addiction, or perhaps her picking up endorsements from some politicians in Puerto Rico. Those two things, and most anything else the former secretary of state says or does, however, is being overshadowed by questions about her use of the private e-mail server during the time she led the State Department and whether she improperly sent or received classified information on that e-mail server.

CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny is in Miami.

Jeff, Clinton's campaign pushing talking points to allies, telling them nothing to see in these new pile of e-mails. You're in Miami today, however, because Vice President Biden is there, and there are Democrats nervous about this story, with Clinton, who continue to watch every Biden is doing very closely. JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake,

all eyes are on Vice President Biden. After spending a summer of quiet strategy sessions in backroom meetings, he's suddenly taking that campaign of will he or won't let out into the open. It started today in Miami.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY (voice-over): Stepping of his Marine helicopter and climbing aboard Air Force Two, Joe Biden hit the road today, heading to Miami with all the trappings of office.

The vice presidential tease intensifies. He's inching closer to deciding if he will dive into the 2016 presidential race. At Miami- Dade College today, Biden was all business.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With your permission, may I take my coat off? My wife has two expressions she uses all the time. The first one is the best-kept secret in America are community colleges.

ZELENY: Bus his schedule is fueling more speculation. He's stepping up his appearances, as he weighs whether to challenge Hillary Clinton.

BIDEN: Look at the press you have attracted. Their interest in community colleges impress my greatly. And I hope that's what they are going to write about.

ZELENY: He's stepping out of the shadow of the vice presidency and into the spotlight, set to appear next week for the debut of "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert."

Some Democrats are urging Biden to jump into the race after a rough summer for Clinton and the ongoing controversy over her State Department e-mails. A new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll today shows Clinton with a 53 percent unfavorable rating. The vice president's is only slightly better with 46 percent viewing him in a negative light, but among Democrats, a different picture. Clinton is seen favorably by 80 percent, Biden only 70 percent.

The Clinton campaign is watching Biden's decision closely.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a difficult decision for him to make, and as I said before, I want him to have the space and time to do it.

ZELENY: Weighing heavy on Biden is the death three months ago of his olden son, Beau. He spoke movingly of that too friends and supporters last weekend in Delaware.

BIDEN: If there's anything I can ever do beyond my official capacity, I'm still here. I'm still Joe. I haven't gone away.

ZELENY: While many Democratic leaders are lining up behind Hillary Clinton, Senator Chris Coons of Delaware told CNN he is backing the vice president. SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: I think he is the best and strongest

voice for America's middle class and our most seasoned and senior foreign policy and national security expert in the administration.

QUESTION: Which way do you think he is leaning?

COONS: I will wait until I hear from Joe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: Technically, Jake this was just an education speech, something that vice presidents do, of course, but his schedule is showing so much more than that. He's here in Florida for two days. He's appearing at a fund-raiser for Senate Democrats tonight, and he's having some more of those private discussions here with some key Florida Democrats in this critical battleground state.

Jake, we still don't know how close he is leaning to running, but I can tell you we're told a decision now will not be made probably until the first week in October.

TAPPER: Jeff Zeleny in Miami, thank you so much.

Let's talk about all of this with Republican strategist Ed Rogers and the former Democratic Senator from Arkansas Blanche Lincoln. Thanks to both of you.

Senator Lincoln, "The Washington Post" reporting this morning on the e-mail scandal that Clinton wrote and sent at least six e-mails using her private server that contained what government now officials say is classified information.

Even though you're from Arkansas, you have not yet endorsed anyone, including the former first lady of Arkansas, Hillary Clinton. Do stories like this concern you at all?

BLANCHE LINCOLN (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: I think she gets past this. I'm not a criminal lawyer, but those that I have read have indicated there was no criminal activity here. You're finding obviously that many of these were not classified when they were sent or received.

[16:10:04]

TAPPER: They were retroactively...

(CROSSTALK)

LINCOLN: Exactly.

So I just think that it's something, one more thing that people love to sensationalize about and dump on Hillary. She's been amazing as a public official in the undue scrutiny and criticism that she's gotten, and yet she's been tough and hung in there.

TAPPER: Ed, something very interesting from this poll, the "Washington Post"/ABC News poll, shows that according to pollsters Biden edges out Clinton in popularity not among Democrats, but among Republicans and independents. Do you think she might be tougher for a Republican to beat than Biden? Or vice versa?

ED ROGERS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: On its face, I think she probably would be tougher.

TAPPER: She would be tougher?

ROGERS: Yes, let's face it, in a general election context, she will have a woman appeal, she will have the Clinton appeal, and Biden, God love him, is a pretty vanilla, plain-wrapped politician.

In an era where people want change, have an appetite for something different, nobody is going to want a third Obama term. It would be hard for an incumbent vice president to be anything other than a third term.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Senator Lincoln, another number in the ABC News/"Washington Post"/ABC poll that you might like shows Donald Trump has a lot of work to do if he wants to get the Hispanic vote, 82 percent of Latino voters viewing Trump unfavorably.

As you heard Dana Bash say, Trump just told Breitbart News Bush should set the example by speaking English when he's in the U.S. This must all have people who want the next president to be a Democrat, like you, very excited.

LINCOLN: I think it is.

Obviously, you know, I think Mr. Trump's outrageous type of personality, it lends itself well to TV, and people are gobbling it up, but I think it's going to wear out. I think people will come back to what's really important to them. It's the economy, it's job creation, it's the nuts and bolts that happen in Washington, like better and sensible regulation, looking at things that are going on, like the ozone piece that the president is going to put out in that rule, things that are really unnecessary at this time when we need to be growing this economy. They're looking at the stock market.

ROGERS: Not good.

LINCOLN: No, it's not, and people want to focus on the economy.

TAPPER: What do you make of Jeb Bush's new line of attack against Donald Trump for his past progressive or Democratic views? Do you think it's going to work? It's not a secret. We have been talking about this for months.

ROGERS: I think it's going to work over time. I don't think Jeb Bush is going to be alone.

I can't wait to see what Carly Fiorina has to say about Donald Trump's Democrat past, his Democrat background, his position on issues. At the end of the day, the Republicans will nominate a good conservative Republican. Donald Trump is going to have a tough time getting there, especially now that Bush has probably got the ball rolling on a headwind of his past Democrat participation and his past liberal positions coming back to haunt him.

TAPPER: I know Jeb Bush hopes you're right.

Ed Rogers, Senator Blanche Lincoln, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

This programming note. Two weeks from today, you can catch the next Republican presidential debate right here on CNN. That's coming up again two weeks from today, Wednesday, September 16, at the Ronald Reagan Library. I will be moderating that debate, believe it or not.

Also breaking new, a major legislative bullet dodged by the White House today. Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland today making 34, 34, that's the magic number of senators that the Obama administration needed to vote in favor of the Iran nuclear deal, even though 34 out of 100 is a minority. Mikulski's yea vote means that at the end of the day President Obama will have enough support for the agreement that it will not be able to be killed.

In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, however, Secretary of State John Kerry insisted that their legislative push is not over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Obviously, 34 votes are enough for the president's veto to be able to be upheld, but that's not the way we are approaching this. We want anybody and everything hopefully to be able to vote for it. We're going to continue to try to persuade people up until the last moment. And our hope is that that number will grow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Nearly all Republicans in the Senate oppose the controversial deal with Iran, along with at least two Democratic senators.

In our national lead today, a teenager's text messages with a deadly ending. Is it homicide if your texts help to convince someone to kill himself? What if you actually help him research and plan it? How do you defend that action? We will ask the attorney representing the teenager now at the center of that court case next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:18:43] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Our national lead -- a disturbing and tragic story out of Massachusetts with the beginning of the trial against an 18-year-old girl accused of bullying her boyfriend into committing suicide last summer. Prosecutors allege that Michelle Carter sent text messages to Conrad Roy III, not only encouraging him to take his own life, but mocking him when he had second thoughts about going through with it. The girl's lawyers claim those messages are a form of protected speech under the First Amendment.

Let's get right to CNN's Boris Sanchez, who's been reporting on this case.

Boris, these messages are deeply troubling.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, the messages are disturbing, the prosecution making the case that this teen coked her boyfriend into killing himself, right up until the moment that he took his own life. Meantime, the defense says even if that were the case, what she did is still not illegal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ (voice-over): It was at this K-Mart parking lot in Massachusetts where last July, 18-year-old Conrad Roy III sat running a gas-powered water pump inside his picture truck, shortly before he died from carbon monoxide poisoning, Roy was exchanging text messages with his then 17-year-old girlfriend, Michelle Carter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She stays on the phone with him to ensure that he's dead.

[16:20:00] SANCHEZ: Those text messages are the subject of a criminal case against Michelle. Prosecutors claim she not only pressured Roy into killing himself, but helped him plan suicide. According to court documents, the two spoke about Roy killing himself for weeks, with Carter texting him, quote, "You're finally going to be happy in heaven, no more pain, no more bad thoughts and worries, you'll be free."

When the 18-year-old voiced concerns about how his parents would feel, Carter wrote, quote, "I think your parents no you're in a really bad place. I think they will understand and accept it." As Roy considered his options, Carter suggested use carbon monoxide sending, quote, "if you admit 3,200 PPM of it for five or 10 minutes, you will die within a half hour.

Prosecutors also allege that Carter told a friend that she was on the phone with Roy the night he committed suicide, telling the friend that Roy got out of the car at one point, because the carbon monoxide was working and he got scared and that Carter told him to get back in.

And potentially, the most damaging evidence, Carter asked Roy to delete the messages she sent him before killing himself, and soon after his death, she tells the friend that if police, quote, "read my messages with him, I'm done."

JANICE ROY/CONRAD'S GRANDMOTHER: If she really loved him as she said she did, why didn't she decide to persuade him not to? Every day you wake up and think, you know, why? Why? Why?

SANCHEZ: In response, Michelle Carter's attorneys says her messages are protected by free speech and claims that it was Conrad Roy who had attempted suicide before that got Carter to endorse his plan. JOSEPH CATALDO, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The government is harping, if you

will, on her saying when are you going to do it? When are you going to do it? What they're not harping on is all the times she said don't do it, don't do it.

SANCHEZ: Michelle Carter, now 128, has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter. She's due back in court October 2nd.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Now, one of stranger parts of this case, after his death, Michelle Carter took to social media, starting up a fund-raiser in his honor, and even advocating for suicide prevention awareness -- Jake.

TAPPER: Boris Sanchez, thank you so much.

And joining me is Joseph Cataldo. He's the attorney for Michelle Carter, who is facing up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Mr. Cataldo, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate it.

Why do you argue that these messages are protected under the First amendment? They're a form of evidence, no?

CATALDO: Thank you for having me, Jake.

They are protected speech, text messages that Michelle Carter sent to Conrad Roy are speech. There's no action. She took no actions for him to cause his own death. He took his own life. He took all the actions necessary to cause his own death.

Her speech in the form of mostly text messages is protected speech. It is at most encouraging one to commit suicide. In Massachusetts, we do not have a law against suicide, nor do we have a law against the encouragement to take one's own life.

TAPPER: In one of the texts she sent, it says, quote, "You're finally going to be happy in heaven. No more pain, no more bad thoughts and worries, you'll be free."

You acknowledged that your client encouraged him. Do you believe she bears any responsibility for Conrad Roy's death?

CATALDO: Well, I'm her lawyer and this case is in the court of law. So, I'll let the public decide whether or not they like her behavior or find her speech repugnant. But it's speech, and it's protected speech.

So, this case is about a criminal homicide case. And my contention is my client did not commit a homicide, a manslaughter. Just by her words alone, you cannot be convicted of a homicide, especially in these circumstances where the backdrop, of course, is throughout the month of June, she was texting with Conrad Roy, encouraging him not to take his own life, that he should seek help with her. She was getting some treatment and she was saying come see my psychiatric doctors, and he rejected that plan. He said, no, I want to kill myself. He actually went so far as asking

her, his words, do a Romeo and Juliet with me. She rejected that and said, no, we're not going to die. A week later, he again said I'm going to kill myself, and will you do it with me? She said no. So after a period --

TAPPER: Right, but then she changed her tune. But then she changed her tune and was encouraging him.

CATALDO: Exactly.

TAPPER: I guess here's the big question, why did she ask him to delete the messages if she didn't do anything wrong?

CATALDO: Because as you will eventually see and the court will eventually see, when the judger analyzing the evidence before here, is that he is the one who brought up the idea of delete all text messages prior.

[16:25:06] The government only released certain text messages that now the presses reporting on.

I've seen all the text messages. There's additional text messages. He's the one who starts the delete all text messages.

TAPPER: Does she have any remorse for sending the messages for encouraging him to buy the generator?

CATALDO: Sure, now in --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Yes?

CATALDO: Yes, she has remorse. I mean, after the fact she put together a fund-raiser. She -- immediately after, she began calling and it's been laid out in the court. She began calling and texting him, saying, "Conrad, answer me, Conrad, you really didn't do this. You're scaring me."

TAPPER: Joseph Cataldo, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

CATALDO: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up, a police shooting caught on video. It appears to show a man with his hands up moments before he's killed, but there's a new second video tell a different story? That's ahead.

But, first, a flood of refugees and migrants lucky enough to escape ISIS only to be faced with no food, no place to stay. Families begging Europeans. So, why are some countries turning them away?

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