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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

White House Looking for Votes for Scalia Successor; Interview with Sen. Diane Feinstein; Pope Francis To Celebrate Mass At U.S.- Mexico Border; A Man With Zika Could Potentially Infect His Partner. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 17, 2016 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00]

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But now we're seeing this all come to a head. We're seeing Washington and Silicon Valley have to play nice together. And you are going to have to see this debate come out in the public. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

TAPPER: That's right, Apple saying they have done everything they could do to help, except for create this backdoor.

Laurie Segall, thank you so much.

We're going to have more on that issue coming up in the next block, when we interview the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

But let's turn to another story, Donald Trump embracing the word torture.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They want to knock out our cities. And don't tell me it doesn't work. Torture works.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Our next guest has spent years fighting to end the government's enhanced interrogation techniques.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:35:00]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Let's go back to politics.

The White House is now laying the groundwork to fill the Supreme Court vacancy after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. On Friday, President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will visit the Supreme Court, where a black cloth currently drapes Scalia's empty seat. The president's visit comes after he told senators to -- quote -- "do

their jobs." He is pushing them to move forward with a confirmation process when he presents a nominee.

Joining me now, CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown.

Pamela, the president is going to need 14 Republicans and all the Democrats to reach the 60-vote threshold to go forward on a vote for his nominee. Is that even possible, 14 Republicans in the Senate to agree with him?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Let's put it this way. There are a lot of doubters, but today the White House said they're reaching out to politicians on both sides of the aisle to try to get to that number, Jake.

So, as this nomination process is ramping up, so is the political fight. And today Democratic senators and special interest groups joined forces to push the president's message that a vote needs to happen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): Back at the White House for the first time since Justice Antonin Scalia's death, President Obama is meeting with his legal team to decide who will replace the conservative giant.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have been in touch with both parties on this question. And I would anticipate that there will be more conversations in the days ahead.

BROWN: On the heels of President Obama demanding the Senate do its job, Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, is blasting Republicans who are threatening to block any nominee.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The level of obstruction that we have seen since Saturday is mind-boggling. Grassroot voices are going to be the key in getting Senator McConnell to back off and let the Senate do its job.

BROWN: Some Senate Republicans are taking a softer approach, saying it's too soon to make any decisions. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley suggests he may be open to hearings, and Senator Thom Tillis warning fellow Republicans not to look like obstructionists.

STEVE VLADECK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The interesting question is whether the American people will react the way President Obama is expecting them to. Is there a political backlash if the Republicans refuse to even provide an ordinary confirmation process to a candidate whose qualifications are unquestioned?

BROWN: As the high court prepares to be back on Monday, with Scalia's chair draped in black, court watchers say any announcement on a replacement will likely wait until after the justice is laid to rest this weekend. VLADECK: As soon as the White House believes that the mourning has

ended, that it won't look uncouth to proceed with this process, I think they are going to move as quickly as they can.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Earnest says that President Obama and the first lady will pay their respects on Friday at the Supreme Court, where Justice Scalia's body will lie in repose, and then Vice President Biden will be attending his funeral mass in the Basilica on Saturday.

TAPPER: Pamela Brown, thank you so much.

Let's bring in Senator Dianne Feinstein. She's vice chair on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

Dean Heller, your colleague, Republican senator from Nevada, today said that President Obama should nominate a consensus candidate, a centrist, a moderate. Do you think that that is a good idea, a good path for the president?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I think what is a good idea is perhaps nominating someone that has been confirmed before and confirmed by a substantial margin.

And there are those that such has been the case. I think there is no reason for the president not to move and not to move quickly. Fourteen justices have been handled in the past. I guess the last one was Ronald Reagan's appointment of Justice Kennedy, and that was a final-year confirmation.

I think the average time is 67 days. So there's no reason not to do it. The president in his last year is entitled to make these appointments, and I feel very strongly that he should. I think it is possible to get someone confirmed.

TAPPER: The White House today said that President Obama regrets when he was in the Senate and he voted to filibuster and block Samuel Alito's nomination in 2006. He said that he should have taken his own advice.

You were one of the other Democrats who voted to filibuster now Justice Alito. Do you have any regrets?

FEINSTEIN: Well, in that case, I don't, based on the testimony that was before us at the time. I did, however, vote for two of Bush nominees for the high court when my colleagues on the Democratic side did not.

So I think I have shown some degree of independence. But what has become very clear to me is that my first confirmation was that of Justice Ginsburg. And I remember both Senators Hatch and Grassley saying why they were going to vote for her, and in fact she was confirmed with a very big margin. [16:40:01]

And it was because a president is really due the appointment if all queries are satisfied by the committee. In Justice Ginsburg's case, it was clear that she was highly competent, that she was able, that she had the requisite skills, the legal background, and, therefore, should have been confirmed, and in fact was.

So, I think Senator Grassley, who has said that they -- we may move ahead with a Judiciary Committee hearing, is perhaps reconsidering. I applaud him for that, because one thing we know, we have only confirmed 11 judges, Title III judges in the year 2015. There are 78 awaiting confirmation.

TAPPER: Yes.

FEINSTEIN: This should not make any of us proud as a record.

TAPPER: Senator, I want to turn for a second to this debate heating up over privacy vs. security.

Do you think Apple should be ordered to create technology that can unblock this is iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino terrorists?

FEINSTEIN: Well, in fact, Apple has been ordered to do so by a magistrate judge.

This particular iPhone 6 was owned by the county, and the county has supported this legal action. Absolutely, this should able to be done. Last year, I wrote a letter to Tim Cook after, in Judiciary, we had the attorney general before us, and he made a very strong and cohesive statement as to why this should happen.

And now we have had this terrorist act in my state where 14 people were killed, and there is a phone encrypted that could yield additional information. And I believe that, as a government, we have every responsibility and duty to see that Apple provides that information.

And here we have the first court order of a phone owned by the county in which a terrorist act has taken place. And I believe very strongly that this -- that Apple should voluntarily agree to it.

In the event that doesn't happen, Senator Burr, the chairman of our Intelligence Committee, myself, as vice chairman, we are prepared to put forward a law which essentially would require that.

I think the public safety, the national security of this country makes eloquent testimony as why this should happen.

TAPPER: I think there are a lot of people in the tech world who would welcome the clarity of a law, given that this is based on a writ from 1789, this legal order.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it, as always.

FEINSTEIN: You're welcome, Jake. Thank you.

TAPPER: Women are being warned about the Zika virus. Now we're learning men are really the ones who should be concerned, at least according to one physician -- why the virus could present a greater danger to them.

Then, Ted Cruz telling Trump, go ahead and sue me. Trump is expected to fire back in just minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back. I'm Jake Tapper. In our World Lead today, Pope Francis about to make history in an hour from now. He will celebrate mass in the U.S.-Mexico border city of Cuidad Juarez, which in 2010 was the murder capital of the world because of drug cartel violence.

The trip to Mexico also allowed us to catch a side of the pope we had never seen before. You can see right here an aggressive worshipper grabbing the pope's sleeves, pulling him down. The pope loses balance and falls on a disabled man.

After regaining his footing, the pope scolds the person raising his voice saying twice in Spanish, "Don't be selfish, don't be selfish."

Also in our World Lead today, doctors have been warning women about Zika virus, telling them not to get pregnant because that's medical experts believed the mosquito-borne virus is linked to a devastating neurological birth defect that results in babies being born with abnormally small heads and brains.

But now one doctor says it's actually men who should be more worried about the virus. That doctor joins me now, Dr. Bill Schaffner. He is a professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and also a member of an advisory panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bill, thanks for joining us. When U.S. Olympian Hope Solo said she's considering not going to Brazil for the Summer Olympics because she fears this virus, you said she had it all backward. What do you mean?

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Well, I would like to counsel her. You know, she can prevent her pregnancy between now and August. While she's there, she can do a lot of things to avoid mosquito bites and then when she comes home, she'll be ready to be pregnant.

It's important for women to understand even if they do get infected with Zika, their bodies will eliminate the virus. It will be gone in seven to ten days. So after that, they don't have to worry about their babies getting infected.

However, their partners, her husband or a woman's partner, if they get infected, it can remain in their semen for an indefinite period of time.

We don't know how frequent this is or for how long, but that man can then infect his partner and that's why the CDC now recommends men coming back from Zika-infected areas, when they have sexual intimacies with a partner, should wear condoms. We don't know for how long that recommendation will be. Stay tuned as we get more information.

TAPPER: As of now, as you know, Bill, people can't go into their doctor's office and submit a blood sample to see if they have Zika, although CDC Director, Dr. Tom Frieden said earlier this month that the CDC would be rolling out blood test kits. Has there been any progress in making those blood test kits and distributing them?

SCHAFFNER: Absolutely. They are working overtime at the CDC. As Dr. Frieden likes to say, they're trying to do two years' work in six week. So they're developing the reagents that are being sent out to all the state laboratories across the country and training the personnel.

[16:50:01]But at the moment testing pregnant women, women who have come from Zika-infected areas and think they might be infected, they have the first priority.

TAPPER: So the bottom line for people watching right now is not only should women who want to get pregnant or who are pregnant be wary and be careful, but men who might want to impregnate somebody someday, not even anytime soon, should also be careful when traveling to areas where there's Zika.

SCHAFFNER: You bet. That's exactly what we're telling everyone.

TAPPER: And not just in the near future but any time. Thank you so much, Doctor, really appreciate it. Dr. William Schaffner, appreciate it.

In our Money Lead, adding insult to injury, Flint, Michigan, residents forced to drink poisoned water for more than a year, also forced to pay the highest water bills in the country. Stay with us.

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[16:55:10]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. In our Money Lead today, Flint, Michigan, residents paid more for water than anyone in America last year, that same water that was poisoned with lead.

That's according to the advocacy group called Food and Water Watch. Flint residents according to the group paid the highest rates for water service, $864 a year, almost twice as much as America's average water bill.

The Flint Mayor's Office declined to comment on the report but the Michigan Governor's Office tells CNN that Governor Snyder's office has proposed $30 million in additional funding to give residents credit for water dating back to April 2014. Conventional wisdom has held that the earlier a child with autism is screened and diagnosed and treated, the better, but yesterday the influential U.S. Preventive Services Task Force stated, quote, "That more evidence is needed to make a recommendation on the benefits and harms of screening young children for autism.

One in 45 children in America is living with autism but there remains so much we still don't know about the mysterious disorder. In a new book, two journalists tried to guide us through this confusing world.

Caren Zucker and John Donvan are the authors of "In A Different Key, The Story Of Autism." Thanks both of you for joining me. It's great to see you again. Former colleagues of mine at ABC.

John, I want to ask you because as a journalist, the thing that I confront the most when talking about autism is this myth that you write about in the book that vaccines or more specifically the mercury in some vaccines is responsible for the epidemic. But you say that there was a silver ling to the controversy.

JOHN DONVAN, CO-AUTHOR, "IN A DIFFERENT KEY, THE STORY OF AUTISM": Yes. The myth is a myth in the sense that the science has refuted that claim that vaccines cause autism. But the fact is that most people in this country probably heard about autism for the first time in the last 15 years because the vaccine story came up and they were motivated by fear.

Not the best motivator, but it really works. And so in a backwards way, it actually raised the profile as autism as no advocacy or movie had ever done.

TAPPER: It's a silver lining indeed. You have a son who lives with autism. It's amazing to go through the history of this and see that they used to blame moms, refrigerator moms for causing this.

CAREN ZUCKER, CO-AUTHOR, "IN A DIFFERENT KEY, THE STORY OF AUTISM": Yes, it's pretty extraordinary because here were these families who had children who were mostly severely disabled. Many of them in institutions. And the ones that were home, the psychiatric community decided it was the parents' fault, and because it was the mother's fault they didn't provide any treatment.

The person who was treated was the mother who was psychoanalyzed. We have a number of stories in our book, "In A Different Key," does sort of the personal perspectives, personal experiences of how people lived through this time in history.

TAPPER: And people forget or don't even know that it's relatively new the diagnosis of autism. In fact the first person diagnosed, Donald Gray Triplett (ph), he's still alive and apparently he's driving?

DONVAN: I will say our friend, Donald Gray Triplett, lives in Forest, Mississippi, which is where he was born. Back in 1938 he was the first person identified -- essentially the diagnosis was a model of his behaviors. Now because he lives in a community, Forest, which embraced him so well. People would cheer for him when he was in the school plays and things like that. They kind of thought he was a genius.

There was a myth about him that he could count by looking at it all of the bricks in the side of the school gymnasium. He would toss out a number and everybody would be amazed Donald could count all the bricks although nobody actually fact checked him.

They loved him and respected him. Yes, he plays golf, he drives a car. He travels the world because in this safe place of acceptance, he really got to grow to his full potential.

ZUCKER: If you could bottle the way Forest has accepted the first person ever diagnosed with autism, the world would change significantly. It's just about embracing him.

TAPPER: I wish we could bottle it. But since we can't, are there any treatments that you think are better than others when it comes to helping people who are living with autism?

ZUCKER: Well, you know, on a personal level I used applied behavior analysis, which is now sort of the gold standard for teaching people with autism, children specifically, but there's a lot of controversy, a lot of people want to try other things.

You know, you meet one person with autism, you've met one person with autism, and so there's a part of me that sort of says you need to do as a parent what you think is best for your kid.

TAPPER: Caren and John, thanks so much.

ZUCKER: Thanks for having.

TAPPER: That's it for THE LEAD. Turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, sue me. Senator Ted Cruz dares Donald Trump to follow through on threats to file a defamation lawsuit because of ads Cruz is running in South Carolina. We're standing by for a Trump rally. We expect to hear directly from him.