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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Benghazi Investigator Interview; First Democratic Showdown Tomorrow; Trump Says He Will Be "Much Less Divisive"; ISIS Blamed For Suicide Blasts In Ankara. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired October 12, 2015 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:01]

PODLISKA: A complete and total fabrication.

I was accused of a security violation, along with several other people. When I asked them, "Hey, what here is classified, what classification manual did you use?" he said, "I didn't use a classification manual."

I said, "Well, honestly, like, you could have gotten that information from Wikipedia that I put in there. How is this classified?"

And he backed down. He said: "Look, it's not classified. It's just sensitive information."

And I left it at that. And the next thing I know, I was being charged with it for security violation.

TAPPER: What do you say to any viewers out there who think that you might have an axe to grind, that you're only talking because you were fired?

PODLISKA: I have a conscience. There's wrongdoing here, and I think it needs to stop.

TAPPER (voice-over): Today, Democrats sent out what they said is further evidence that the committee is focused only on Clinton, including abandoning plans to interview intelligence and defense officials and conducting monthly hearings with Defense, State and intel officials involved.

(on camera): There are Democrats out there who want to disband the committee. Should the committee be disbanded?

PODLISKA: I don't believe so. No. I think this is a very important topic. And I think that we have answers to provide both the victims' families and the public. The truth is -- is out there. And I don't want to disband it.

TAPPER: Do you think that the results of the committee based on what you saw will be fair, comprehensive, thorough, professional, honest?

PODLISKA: No. It's not possible. The victims' families are not going to get the truth. And that's the most unfortunate thing about this.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Now, of the charge that (AUDIO GAP) right-wing nut job -- quote -- "It's another false unsubstantiated claim by Podliska" and they say that he was told to stand down on that specific project because -- quote -- "he wanted to create a sensational and conclusory presentation that was related to the committee's investigative plan."

Now, the chairman of the House Benghazi committee, Congressman Trey Gowdy, declined our many offers to visit THE LEAD to give his side of the story. In his statement, Gowdy also falsely claimed that CNN did not contact his committee before we -- quote -- "rushed to air Podliska's claims."

Again, that is not true. We contacted the committee before reporting any word of this. And then we included their statement in our very first CNN.com story on Saturday. We also included their statement in our first broadcast of the interview on TV the next day on "STATE OF THE UNION." And we invited Chairman Gowdy on air. That invitation remains open.

Aside from who will say what, tomorrow's debate has one huge unknown factor looming over it. Will Vice President Joe Biden rock the world of politics, jump into this race and join the other candidates on stage? We will look at the chances of that happening.

Plus, the congresswoman who says she was disinvited as a guest of the debate. We will get the DNC's side of the story next here in Vegas.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:37:10]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is no longer acceptable to discuss women's rights as separate from human rights.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The richest 1 percent now own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.

CLINTON: Women's rights are human rights. And I have done everything I can to make that principle come true.

SANDERS: The richest 1 percent own more wealth than the bottom 95 percent.

CLINTON: Human rights are women's rights.

SANDERS: The top one-10th of 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Consistency in message, if not in hairstyles. Welcome back. I'm Jake Tapper live from the neon oasis in the desert

at the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada, which will elect delegates February 20 after Iowa and New Hampshire. Nevada hosts the first Democratic debate tomorrow night here in Sin City. Five candidates will pony up to the stage, laying their cards on the table.

Is it possible that Vice President Joe Biden will join the show? We have a lectern for him, but how realistic is a Biden appearance?

Let's bring in CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta.

Jim, there will not be a better moment for the vice president to enter the race than tomorrow. Excitement in the air. He goes out there, does his little thing with the -- you know, shoots his little guns to the people in the audience.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I can see it right now.

TAPPER: Takes off the shades.

ACOSTA: Aviators on. I agree.

TAPPER: Yes.

ACOSTA: Fire up Air Force Two, just point it in this direction and let's go.

TAPPER: But?

ACOSTA: But all indications at this point he's not going to run for president -- or not show up at this debate. He may run for president, but not show up at this debate tomorrow night.

But he is the X-factor looming over everything right now. If Vice President Biden were to show up and participate in this debate, it changes everything. All of a sudden, Hillary Clinton has -- to her right, she has Bernie Sanders and to her left she has Joe Biden. You can look at the polls right now.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: You meant that physically, not politically, yes.

ACOSTA: Physically, yes. I think that is according to the lectern positioning at this point, certainly not from a political standpoint.

But if you look at the polls in just the last 24 hours, CNN/ORC polls show that Vice President Biden would be a factor in Nevada. He would be in third place in Nevada. Without Biden in the race, Hillary Clinton's lead grows dramatically in this early primary or early caucus state.

In South Carolina, he places in second without even being a declared candidate. But until the White House puts out, and you know this from being a White House correspondent, until it puts out its daily guidance for tomorrow and it says Joe Biden will be at the White House attending meetings or whatever, the vice president's office up until this point has not definitively said one way or the other whether Joe Biden will be coming to Las Vegas tomorrow.

Of course, if he's coming to Las Vegas tomorrow, that means he's running for president, which changes everything.

TAPPER: That would be very exciting, but you think still -- you don't think it's going to happen?

ACOSTA: I think in the grand scheme of things, there's a Joe Biden market right now. There are bears and bulls, and I will be honest. I'm more of a bear at this point.

[16:40:05]

I think he's articulated every time he's been on television why he's more likely not to run. There are a lot of people who say, no, he is running. I talked to a top Democratic official in the last couple of days who said she's talked to two people very close to Joe Biden. One says, oh, yes, he's in, he's running. The other person said, no, he's not feeling it so much.

This is being kept so tight, so close to the vest. And the vice president met with some of his advisers over the weekend, talked with them over the weekend, but there's still no clear indication coming from that camp as to whether or not he's going to run for president. At this point, the indications are he's not going to be here in Nevada tomorrow. But I agree with you. Parachuting out...

TAPPER: Elvis costume.

ACOSTA: Elvis costume.

TAPPER: Walk in ride in on the -- ride in on the white tiger.

In all sincerity, if he's going to do it, as you know, everything in politics is timing, and if he's going to do it, tomorrow would be an exciting moment to do it. It would knock Hillary Clinton off her game a little bit potentially. There would be excitement in the crowd, something new, something different for a debate that, you know, I don't know how riveting every moment of it's necessarily going to be.

ACOSTA: I agree.

TAPPER: Although everybody should watch it, of course.

ACOSTA: I agree.

But I think up until the point when Hillary Clinton was -- you know, when Congressman McCarthy came out and basically admitted on national television that the Benghazi committee had a political aim and that was to damage Hillary Clinton, there was a rationale, political rationale for Joe Biden to get into this race.

Once that happened, you know, the rationale for Joe Biden getting into this race is becoming less and less of a dramatic factor.

TAPPER: Yes.

ACOSTA: If Hillary Clinton is having Democrats rally around her because of this Benghazi e-mail controversy, then perhaps there's not that same rationale, that same push for Joe Biden to get into this race.

TAPPER: You were talking about how you talked to a top Democratic official. Let's talk to one ourselves.

Joining me is the communications director for the Democratic National Committee, Luis Miranda.

Luis, thanks so much for being here. We appreciate it.

LUIS MIRANDA, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: I know you cannot betray an emotion one way or the other about Vice President Biden joining the race, right? You can't?

MIRANDA: Well, look, I worked for the vice president obviously for four years, so I have deep respect for him.

And I think, regardless of whether he's on stage or not, this is going to be a field that we're already seeing in all of the talk and all of the coverage building up to this debate that this is going to be a substantive conversation. I think that's what's exciting about whether he's in or not is that we have a field that's going to be talking about the issues that affect people like here in Nevada, who saw some of the highest rates of unemployment, some of the highest rates of foreclosures during what the last Republican administration left behind.

And for a change, we're actually going to see presidential candidates talking about those issues and how do we move forward in a way that keeps building on a strong record.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii and a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. She said she was disinvited from the debate by the DNC after she appeared on television and called for more debates.

You know this is a big issue, whether or not there should be more debates. People other than the Clinton camp seem to want more debates. What can you tell us about Tulsi Gabbard being disinvited?

MIRANDA: Well, I think the Democratic Party is a big tent party. That's one of the great things about being a Democrat, is you are going to have a lot of different opinions, whether it's about how many debates, whether it's about Philadelphia as the site for the convention, even the primary calendar.

At this time eight years ago, I was dealing with calls from reporters every day because Florida and Michigan had jumped further ahead. And that was a real issue because we were losing delegates.

TAPPER: But why was she disinvited?

MIRANDA: This isn't an issue at all. All we asked is that we want folks to focus not on intraparty issues, but focus on the candidates, because we have got several candidates who tomorrow are going to be introducing themselves.

They have an opportunity to present their vision for moving America forward. And that's where the attention should be. And so we want to provide that opportunity. That's why what we have done is, we have built out more than 200 house parties and watch parties all across the country, 41 states that are going to be focusing in on everything that these candidates are saying, how they're introducing themselves, what their plans are.

That's where we really want to keep the attention on. That's all we asked.

TAPPER: But why not have more debates? I think the idea is there were more than 20 last time, in 2008. And it only strengthened your eventual nominee, Barack Obama. It strengthened Hillary Clinton too, for that matter.

Why limit it to six? A lot of grassroots activists think that the fix is in and the DNC is doing what the Clinton campaign wants them to do, because she just wants to have as little debate as possible and just get the nomination.

MIRANDA: Well, I will tell you what. One of the things that gets lost in this debate is there were actually just as many sanctioned debates in the last two competitive cycles.

TAPPER: Right. But you're punishing people now for participating in non...

(CROSSTALK)

MIRANDA: Well, what we're trying to do is make sure that people focus in on our sanctioned debates. And I think that's a good thing.

I want when you sit there and Anderson Cooper sits there with the candidates on stage, we want folks to know that this is one of our sanctioned debates, that we want people tuning into this one, that we want people focusing in on it. All it does is, it provides a reasonable framework for us.

Look, anyone who sat through that third hour of the Republican debate knows you need a little bit of a reasonable framework to keep it from getting out of hand. That's all we're trying to do, is the same way that we have to set a calendar that guides the nominating process, that we set delegates, election rules, we set the number of debates to make it work for candidates and not pull them off the trail too much, because that's the other thing that happens with debates, is that you have got candidates who need to be going out there to Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada here, South Carolina. And they need -- they need to be talking to voters.

TAPPER: Right.

MIRANDA: And so we want to maximize both that, but also the attention on the debates that we do have sanctioned.

TAPPER: Any predictions? We have 23 million viewers for our Republican debate, any predictions?

MIRANDA: Well, I'll tell you what, we're not going to have a "Celebrity Apprentice" on stage, but what we are going to have is the next president of the United States so and hopefully that will draw a good size audience.

TAPPER: OK, good dodge. Luis Miranda, thank you so much. And Congresswoman Tulsy Gabbard will be appearing on "THE SITUATION ROOM" in just a few minutes. She'll give her side of this.

But first, with just one day before the Democratic debate, Republicans are taking another stage today and touting their plans to get both sides of Washington to work together. Why Donald Trump says his sharp critiques won't be the problem if he's elected president. More from the Wynn Las Vegas Hotel next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Live here in Las Vegas on the eve of the first Democratic debate of the 2016 presidential race. Even with the Democrats headlining the show there is no escaping Donald Trump.

[16:50:06] His name literally and figuratively looming large over this debate and today Trump was on the campaign trail selling himself as the candidate of compromise. CNN's Sara Murray is live for us in Manchester, New Hampshire, where Trump and many other Republicans and Democrats spoke today -- Sara.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, a little bit of a different crowd here for Donald Trump. Instead of thousands of adoring fans, he got a room full of undecided New Hampshire voters trying to prove to them that he does not believe compromise is a dirty word.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Donald trump trying out a new style today, consensus builder.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The word compromise is absolutely fine. But if you're going to compromise, ask for about three times more than you want.

MURRAY: Speaking at an event hosted by the nonpartisan political group no labels, Trump touted his business deals as proof he can bring people together. The GOP frontrunner is facing some doubts that an expert at hurling insults can reach across the aisle. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm wondering if you're at all concerned that some of the divisive language you use on the campaign trail undermines your ability to solve --

TRUMP: I went to Ivy League schools. I know what divisive and what's not. Whatever you do I don't want to necessarily be politically correct.

MURRAY: Today, Trump again confronting questions about how he treats women.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So if you become president, will a woman make the same as a man and do I get to choose what I do with my body?

TRUMP: You're going to make the same if you do as good a job. You're going to make the same if you do as good a job and I happen to be pro- life.

MURRAY: Trump insists he's not the only flame thrower in the race.

TRUMP: I haven't gone after my Republican opponents at all. Not even at all. They've gone after me. I only go after them when they go after me. I'm a counterpuncher.

MURRAY: With the stage set for bipartisanship, Republicans landed some jabs. Trump taking on President Obama.

TRUMP: I thought he did terribly last night. I thought he did not do a good job. I think that our country has nothing but problems.

MURRAY: And Lindsey Graham is taking on Trump asking whether his style can succeed in a general election.

LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Can Donald Trump bring us together? I don't feel that Hispanics believe that he'd be a good president for them when 75 percent of the Hispanic community disapproved of the candidacy as a Republican. You're in trouble.

MURRAY: Meanwhile New Jersey Governor Chris Christie taking aim at everyone in Washington.

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: You know what I want and what most of you want, how about they just do something?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: We had a problem with Sara Murray's satellite. We're also monitoring today's World Lead. Nearly 100 people killed in twin explosions in Turkey. Blasts so powerful they shook high-rise buildings.

And now the focus is turning to ISIS as investigators look into who may be responsible. That story as THE LEAD continues live from Las Vegas ahead of tomorrow's Democratic debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:57:42]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper coming to you live from Las Vegas as we count down to the first Democratic debate here tomorrow night. Topping our World Lead today an outpouring of emotion across the country of Turkey as family members bury the dead from Saturday's devastating suicide bombings that killed at least 97 people and wounded more than 200.

Both blasts took place at a peace rally in Ankara, the country's capital. No one has yet claimed responsibility, but Turkey's prime minister is pointing the finger directly at the terrorist group, ISIS.

CNN international correspondent, Phil Black, is in Ankara with the latest -- Phil.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, Turkey's prime minister says investigators are very close to identifying one of the suspected bombers from Saturday's attack and to help with that they have taken DNA samples from the relatives of some people suspected of having joined ISIS.

They say ISIS remains the focus of their inquiries, but investigators are also looking at other groups including Kurdish separatists and far left militants as well.

The Turkish government says this attack was an attack against the whole country and the response must be one of national unity. But that line is going to be very difficult to sell to the many people who are furious this attack was allowed to take place at all.

For that they blame the Turkish government. They argue that it should have been perfectly safe to organize a rally like this in advance involving thousands of people here in the heart of the capital Ankara especially for a country with such extensive intelligence and security resources.

Those who took part in the rally say they didn't receive proper protection, they believe, because they were openly challenging defying the policies of the Turkish government.

All of this just three weeks ahead of a parliamentary election even before Saturday's attack the political atmosphere in this country was described as tense and polarized -- Jake.

TAPPER: Phil Black in Ankara, Turkey. Thank you so much.

Reminder our coverage of the CNN Facebook Democratic debate begins at 8:30 tomorrow night. Anderson Cooper will moderate. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jaketapper.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM," just a few feet away from me.