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Iraq Debate; Spy Games; Ben Carson Leading in Iowa; Better Off With Saddam?; Interview with Congressman Steve Russell of Oklahoma. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired October 26, 2015 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Donald Trump says he knows what it means to struggle.

THE LEAD starts right now.

He's just a kid who started out with almost nothing, except for that million-dollar loan from dad, Donald Trump sharing his riches-to-even- more-riches story this morning and taking shots at the man he's now trailing in Iowa, Dr. Ben Carson.

A real-life spy thriller? According to a new report, a Christian charity delivering humanitarian supplies deep inside of North Korea was actually a spy ring run out of the Pentagon. And the Bibles they carried were just part of the plan.

Plus, pick your poison. You got your morning bacon, you got your ballpark hot dog, you got salami on your hoagie. The heartbreaking report that says these processed meats could be as much of a cancer risk as smoking.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Our politics lead, three polls, all of them finding that Donald Trump is losing in at least one key state. Breaking this afternoon, a Monmouth University poll out of Iowa showing Dr. Ben Carson on top, trumping Trump by 14 points. Two other polls already showed Trump trailing.

And that has the businessman taking aim at Carson on issues such as immigration, on his energy level, even raising questions about Carson's faith.

CNN political reporter Sara Murray is here.

Sara, in my interview with Trump that aired yesterday, he went at Carson full-bore. Did he keep it up on the stump today?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we are starting to see how Trump reacts when he's under threat and he's not holding back on Carson or really any of his Republican rivals.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MURRAY (voice-over): With less than 100 days until the Iowa caucuses, the jostling in the GOP ranks is taking on a sharper edge.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Carson is lower-energy than Bush. I don't get it.

MURRAY: A new Monmouth University poll gives Dr. Ben Carson a double- digit lead in Iowa, drawing 32 percent support compared to 18 percent for Donald Trump.

TRUMP: I'm just going to have to work a little bit harder. And I was very surprised to see the numbers. You know, I had a lead, and it sort of flip-flopped a little bit with Ben Carson. And I like Ben, but he cannot do with trade like I do with trade. He can't do with a lot of things like I do.

MURRAY: Carson, the newly minted Iowa front-runner, revealing his rougher edges, saying, when he was a teenager:

BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would go after people with rocks and bricks and baseball bats and hammers. And, of course, many people know the story when I was 14 and I tried to stab someone. And, you know, fortunately, you know, my life has been changed. And I'm a very different person now.

MURRAY: But it's the softer Carson that's winning over evangelicals. Now Trump is taking aim at Carson's religion.

TRUMP: I'm Presbyterian. Boy, that's down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh Day Adventist, I don't know about. I just don't know about.

MURRAY: Meanwhile, Jeb Bush, who just cut payroll costs by 40 percent across the board--

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Blah, blah, blah, blah.

QUESTION: Well, sir, you know what they're saying out there.

BUSH: That's my answer, blah, blah, blah. Watch it.

MURRAY: No longer able to hide his frustration with the state of the race.

BUSH: I got lot of really cool things that I could do other than sit around being miserable listening to people demonize me and me feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.

MURRAY: Today, Bush is rallying donors at a Texas retreat as he tries to reassure them the race will soon break his way.

But Trump continues to hammer him, mocking Bush for turning to his family members for help.

TRUMP: So, he's meeting now with mom and dad. (LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: No, it's true. He needs counsel. And he was very angry over the week. He said, you know, if this is going to be this nasty, let them have Trump as their president.

It's going to be nasty. Hey, Putin is a nastier guy than me.

MURRAY: As the billionaire businessman downplays how his own family helped him get ahead.

TRUMP: It has not been easy for me. And I started off in Brooklyn. My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars. I came into Manhattan, and I had to pay him back and I had to pay him back with interest.


MURRAY: Now, the Bush donors who are at this retreat tell me they still think his moment will come and his numbers will start moving up, but the shifting dynamics in this race mean a number of candidates, including Bush, are going to be looking for a breakout moment on that debate stage on Wednesday -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Sara, thanks so much.

On the Democratic side, Senator Bernie Sanders is brushing back Hillary Clinton, accusing the national Democratic front-runner of not only being on the wrong side of history, but trying to rewrite history.

Let's bring in CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar.

Brianna, Sanders is walking something of a tightrope here. He's going after Clinton on issues, but she's taking it to a different level. She's been insinuating that he's sexist.



So, Hillary Clinton on Friday in an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow basically revised history on her husband's motivation for signing the Defense of Marriage Act into law in 1996. She said that it was or there was some evidence that it would help to stop a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Well, Bernie Sanders called her on this. There are gay marriage advocates who are backing him up on this claim, but Clinton really sharpened her elbows too. She implied that something Sanders said in the first Democratic debate was sexist.

And, surprise, surprise, Sanders popped up today on a popular daytime women's TV show.


KEILAR (voice-over): Bernie Sanders making a play for the women's vote on "The View" today.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you are a mom and you have a baby, you have the right to stay home with paid family and medical leave for at least three months.

KEILAR: After a busy weekend on the campaign trail.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have never been the warm-up act for Katy Perry before.

KEILAR: At a campaign rally in Iowa, Hillary Clinton got a little help from her husband and pop star Katy Perry, trying to inject a little excitement into her campaign.

KATY PERRY, MUSICIAN: It's time to wake up, America. We can do better.

KEILAR: Democratic candidates made the rounds at the state party's annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner this weekend, Bernie Sanders sharpening his differences with Clinton on trade, the Iraq War and her support for the anti-same-sex marriage law signed by her husband.

SANDERS: I will not abandon any segment of American society, whether you're gay or black or Latino, poor or working-class, just because it is politically expedient at a given time.

KEILAR: Clinton unveiled a new line of attack on this comment Sanders made during the Democratic debate while talking guns.

SANDERS: But all the shouting in the world is not going to do what I would hope all of us want.

KEILAR: Her response in Iowa.

CLINTON: I have been told to stop shouting about ending gun violence. Well, I haven't been shouting, but, sometimes, when a woman speaks out, some people think it's shouting.


KEILAR: Sanders reacted yesterday on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."

SANDERS: I am very proud of my record on women's issues. I certainly do not have a problem with women speaking out. And I think what the secretary is doing there is taking words and misapplying them.

KEILAR: And Clinton tried to revive her initial campaign slogan that she's a fighter with a new ad, as she positions herself as a fighter who can win.

CLINTON: I'm going to do everything I can to make sure every woman in every job gets paid the same as the men who are doing that job.



KEILAR: Hillary Clinton this week is going on a two-day swing to New Hampshire, where she's trying to shore up certainly the support there in a state where Bernie Sanders is challenging her. And then she heads South. She's going to Atlanta. She's going to South Carolina, Jake, where she will be courting the African-American vote.

It's so important in South Carolina. And it's really key to this firewall against Bernie Sanders that her campaign is setting up.


TAPPER: In the last polls in South Carolina, she's dominating--

KEILAR: Definitely.

TAPPER: -- the African-American vote.

KEILAR: Yes. He is doing very poorly compared to her, but she is making sure that she definitely hangs onto that lead.

TAPPER: Brianna Keilar, thanks so much.

Let's talk about all of this with CNN political commentator Patti Solis Doyle. She's a former presidential campaign manager for Hillary Clinton -- and with editor of "The Weekly Standard," Bill Kristol.

Thanks to both of you for being here.

Let's talk about this insinuation from Secretary Clinton that Bernie Sanders when he says stop -- we need to stop the shouting about gun violence, that he is talking about her and that he can't handle women speaking. It sounds like shouting.

He obviously laughed it off in the interview that I did with him yesterday. He didn't really want to engage it, but it's a pretty strong insinuation. And when I have talked to women about it, they react positively to her message on this.

PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, as a woman, I think we have all felt that way in one shape, way or another, whether it's in the boardroom or whether in the campaign strategy room.

When you speak, sometimes, it's being taken as you're too aggressive or too strong and it doesn't look well on a woman. And you know what? That's just crazy.


TAPPER: First of all, you don't have to yell.


TAPPER: No, but, in all honestly, do you really think that when he said we need to stop the shouting, do you think he was talking about her, though?

SOLIS DOYLE: In all honesty, I think he was referring to the entire stage. Everyone was speaking over each other. I do. I give him the benefit of the doubt, absolutely.

But I think Hillary hit a nerve with women on that, because I think we have all experienced it.

TAPPER: This is a real gender gap, because I have to say my reaction is he wasn't talking about her, why is she accusing him of being sexist?

And every woman I talk to reacts the same way Patti does, which is, why are you offended about this one thing, as opposed to the fact that we can't go anywhere without being accused of shouting?


BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, well, there's a lot of sexism in the Democratic Party. It's terrible, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, the chief of staff, everyone is -- I sympathize.


KRISTOL: I sympathize. They have never had a woman on the ticket.

Oh, I guess Geraldine Ferraro, 30 years ago. Yes. So, I sympathize with Hillary Clinton.

I'm deeply moved by her angst. No, she invented something there. There was a cute little point. But she's playing identity politics. That's what the Democratic Party is all about.

TAPPER: But I'm saying if you think this is identity politics, Bill, you ain't seen nothing yet. Wait until she -- if she gets the nomination.

KRISTOL: No, I agree. And I think it's unfortunate because we could have a good debate on the issues this year, and of course on the Republican side we're having an extremely elevated, dignified, serious, serious debate on the issue confronting -- that the country has to deal with.



TAPPER: I do want just to ask you a quick question on this Sanders- Clinton debate about the Defense of Marriage Act. Who's right about that? Was Hillary Clinton accurate when she said -- because I'm sure you recall this.


TAPPER: Was that signed by Democrats, by Bill Clinton as a way of fending off a constitutional amendment? Or was this more of a way of giving in on an issue where the public was against same-sex marriage at the time?

KRISTOL: The latter, obviously. There was no chance a constitutional amendment was going to pass Congress or three-quarters of the states.

TAPPER: So why say it? Why would Secretary Clinton say that, as opposed to do what her husband did, which is to say, I was wrong and now I have a different view?

SOLIS DOYLE: Look, I don't think it's fair to judge her on what her husband did 20 years ago.

I think she's for same-sex marriage today. I think she has evolved on the issue, as many politicians have, as many American people have. So I just think this is a non-issue for her at this point.

TAPPER: You heard Donald Trump bring up Ben Carson's faith, Seventh Day Adventist. He said he's Presbyterian.


TAPPER: He said Presbyterian. He's Methodist.


TAPPER: Down the middle.

KRISTOL: Down the middle. That's right.

TAPPER: Now, when he was asked about this, why are you raising this, why are you questioning this, I'm not questioning. I said, I don't know about it. I don't know anything about it.

What is he doing there?

KRISTOL: I think some ill-informed adviser of Donald Trump told him, hey, the Seventh Day Adventists are an odd sect and mainstream evangelicals will be put off when they discover that Ben Carson worships at a Seventh Day Adventist church.

I don't think they're going to be put off. Seventh Day Adventists have been part of the American evangelical movement for quite a long time. They have been part of Billy Graham's crusades and so forth. But I do think it shows something about Trump which we have seen already, that he really is unprincipled.

What's the right word, unprincipled or -- I mean, he really will play cards that you should not play and that there is no need to play in contemporary American politics, such as trying to -- Ben Carson is a man of faith. And he's not raised that issue against others really.


TAPPER: He brought up Muslims.

KRISTOL: And which he was criticized for and which he semi-apologized for. But anyway -- well, whatever. (CROSSTALK)


TAPPER: I want to ask you about one quick question about Jeb Bush because obviously there's a big huddle. There was this devastating quote in "The Washington Post" over the weekend I'm sure you both saw where a Bush fund-raiser told "The Washington Post": "It feels very much like a death spiral and it breaks my heart. I don't know anyone who wants to reinvest now. I wouldn't be shocked in 60 days from now if he wasn't in the race."

That's from a Bush fund-raiser.


Look, every front-runner goes through this near-death experience. Hillary went through it this summer. And she certainly went through it in '07 and '08, right? She didn't survive in '07 and '08. It seems like she survived and thrived from it this time around this summer.

And so now the test is here for Bush. Can he survive this? Can he turn it around? And I don't know if he can. He seems to stumble quite a bit. And Trump has really thrown him for a loop. He just doesn't know how to deal with it.

TAPPER: Quick thoughts?

KRISTOL: No runners has ever gone down to single digits in the polls and then survived. Maybe Bush can come back.

I do think Wednesday night's debate is very important. People always say, this debate is really decisive. But I do think for Jeb Bush, he needs to really show spark and fire and even honestly dominate to some degree Wednesday night's debate. If he is just an also-ran in that debate, then what is the case for Jeb Bush compared to all the other candidates?

TAPPER: Quien es mas macho?

Bill Kristol, Patti Solis Doyle, thank you both.

Donald Trump says the world would be better off if dictators Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi were still in power. You can tell that to my next guest, a former Army Ranger who was one of the soldiers that took down Hussein. That story next.


[16:18:37] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Take a look at this incredibly dramatic video. A rare glimpse inside the Delta Force raid last week freeing hostages from the grasp of ISIS.


TAPPER: You can hear the crackle of gunfire, of course, as hostages, some of them barefoot, are rushed to safety. This is the raid when American soldier, Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler, was killed, the first U.S. combat death in the fight against ISIS. It's illustrating to many the meaninglessness of the pledge to not have American boots on the ground fighting ISIS when the U.S. is in the thick of the fight in other ways, including Special Forces operations.

On "STATE OF THE UNION" yesterday, Donald Trump told me is only is what it is because the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein's regime. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look at Libya. Look at Iraq. Iraq used to be no terrorists. He would kill the terrorists immediately. Now it's the Harvard of terrorism. Iraq.

If you look at Iraq from years ago, I'm not saying he was a nice guy. He was a horrible guy, but it was a lot better than it is right now. Right now, Iraq is a training ground for terrorists. Right now, Libya nobody even knows Libya.

Frankly, there is no Iraq and no Libya. It's all broken up. They have no control. Nobody knows what's going on.

TAPPER: So, the world would be better off with Saddam Hussein --

TRUMP: A hundred percent.

TAPPER: -- and Gadhafi in power?

[16:20:00] TRUMP: A hundred percent. Now, as far as Assad is concerned --

TAPPER: What about human rights abuses --

TRUMP: Let's talk -- you don't think they're happening now? They're worse now than they ever were. People are getting their heads chopped off. They're being drowned. They've -- right now, they're far worse than they were ever under Saddam Hussein or Gadhafi.

Look at what happened. Libya's a catastrophe. You look at our ambassador as an example, OK? Libya's a disaster. Iraq is a disaster. Syria's a disaster. The whole Middle East. And it all blew up around Hillary Clinton and around Barack --


TAPPER: Republican Congressman Steve Russell served in Iraq. He's retired lieutenant colonel. He was part of the team that tracked down Saddam Hussein.

Congressman, I know you feel very strongly about this. Donald Trump, is he wrong? REP. STEVE RUSSELL (R), OKLAHOMA: He's wrong. Regardless of what

people think about the Iraq war, human rights advocates worldwide believed that the one silver lining that came out of the war was the demise of Saddam Hussein.

TAPPER: So the world would not be better off in your view?

RUSSELL: Absolutely, 350,000 Kurds and Arab Shias murdered.

TAPPER: By Saddam Hussein?

RUSSELL: By Saddam specifically. Entire villages gassed. He attacked every neighboring country except Baathist Syria. The Marsh Arabs went from a population of 250,000 down to 30,000. He killed 20,000 of his own Sunni Arab political opponents, murdered his own son-in-law.

I mean, are we kidding? This just demonstrates a complete lack of the facts and a complete lack of understanding of foreign policy.

TAPPER: With all due respect, you are alone in expressing outrage about this among Republican -- I mean as opposed to Republican presidential candidates. They're not out there criticizing Donald Trump on this. And he is your frontrunner.

RUSSELL: Well, I approach it as a soldier who happened to be involved with his demise. And it is absolutely absurd to think that the world would be a better place. He ranks as one of the worst dictators of the 20th century in terms of human loss. He also had Joseph Stalin as his model. Are we to say, well, you know, gosh, Mussolini at least he let the trains run on time, we should have left in power? What an absurd notion.

TAPPER: Well, there is this school of thought, conservative thought really that the devil you know is better than the one you don't and the U.S. would be better off with strong men in the Middle East. Vice President Cheney was very upset when President Obama in Cheney's view turned his back on Mubarak in Egypt for the same reason.

RUSSELL: Well, the difference you saw there in Egypt was Al Sisi and the Egyptian army, which we've had a very good relationship with, they stepped up and made sure that the constitution of Egypt was upheld.

TAPPER: It's not a perfect metaphor, I agree.

RUSSELL: But nevertheless what we see with Iraq had we had the political will, let's not forget the men and women in uniform with great sacrifice and great bloodshed did turn the place around. And America abandoned its commitment to Iraq which also contributed some of that.

TAPPER: Trump has suggested that watching the chaos unfold in Syria and allowing Russia to meddle there so long as they also kill ISIS terrorists in the process, that that might be the best course of action for the U.S. What do you think? RUSSELL: There's a lot of missed opportunity with Syria. One, we

shouldn't be surprised that the Russians have an interest in Syria. It shouldn't have taken us a year and a half to figure out they have a naval base at Tartus and an air base in Latakia. They've got a mixed married Russian-Syrian population, much similar to as we've been based around the world, we get very integrated with communities.

So, Russia has an interest there. There's a lot of misreading of the entire Syrian situation.

TAPPER: I want you to take a listen to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair who apologized for the false intelligence that prompted the Iraq invasion. Take a listen.


TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I can say that I apologize for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong because even though he had used chemical weapons extensively against his own people, against others, the program in the form that we thought it was did not exist in the way that we thought. But I find it hard to apologize for removing Saddam, I think even from today in 2015. It is better that he's not there than that he is there.


TAPPER: Do you think President Bush needs to apologize?

RUSSELL: Absolutely not, nor does anyone that faces down evil and fights tyranny.

Look, the minute the United States begins to say we're not going to call for the removal of absolute tyrants and barbarians, we're talking half a million dead, one million ancillary, hundreds of thousands of Kurds that were forced into asylum and fleeing the country. All you have to do is look at Saddam's track record. The minute that the United States loses that goodwill to take objective, looks and says it's better that tyrants remain in power and kill by the half-million, we've lost our way.

[16:25:02] TAPPER: Congressman, thank you so much for coming in. We really appreciate it.

This programming note, can we return to the chaos left behind in the Middle East? Can there be another American war in Iraq? CNN will take a look at these tough questions as only CNN can.

Tonight, a special report "Long Road to Hell, America in Iraq". That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Do not miss it.

Just minutes ago she stood before a judge accused of intentionally plowing her car into a crowd, killing four people. And now, this woman's lawyer is suggesting that she is mentally ill and there have been warning signs for years.

Plus, a faith-based charity that's reportedly a covert spy operation in many ways meant to infiltrate North Korea and even the employees of the charity did not know. That story ahead.