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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview with Jane Sanders; Police: Knife Found on Ex-O.J. Simpson Estate; Whistleblower: EPA Had Known About Lead In Flint Water; The Government Waste Awards. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 4, 2016 - 16:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Anyone running for president owes it to you to come up with real ideas, not an ideology, not an old set of talking points, but a credible strategy designed for the world we live in now. And that's exactly what I'm here today to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[16:30:06] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: It seems pretty clear that she's directing that criticism at your husband.

I wonder what your response is to that claim, that argument in effect that Bernie Sanders' proposals are unrealistic?

JANE SANDERS, WIFE OF SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I think that in a presidential election, I don't think it's the time to tell the American people lower your sights, let's just have some incremental change. We need bold leadership. And Bernie is offering that.

His plans are very specific and concise. Not only do we not need old talking points, we don't need new talking points. I mean I think what we need to do is compare Secretary Clinton's record and her rhetoric and also Bernie's record and rhetoric. I think you'll see that not only does he have a consistency in his ideas, he also has a consistency in achieving the goals that he sets out.

One of the things that everybody said couldn't be done was to run a presidential campaign without super PACs and Wall Street support. He's doing it and that's -- each one of his plans, higher education, universal health care, dealing with climate change, they all have reams of information behind them. You don't get a chance to say it all at every hour speech.

SCIUTTO: Looking at this race now, one of the challenges for Senator Sanders has been attracting large numbers of African-American voters. The music mogul Russell Simmons, he endorsed Hillary Clinton today. Listen to what he said about -- had to say about Bernie Sanders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSELL SIMMONS, FOUNDER, RUSHCARD: I think Bernie Sanders is overpromising. He's insensitive to the plight of black people. He's insensitive in a number of ways and I would get into it if we had

time. But I think Senator Clinton has been sensitive, supportive of a progressive agenda, she's realistic in what she can get done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: So I want to give you a chance to respond to that criticism that Bernie Sanders, according to Russell Simmons, is overpromising to black voters.

SANDERS: Well, I think those are Clinton campaign talking points. I was there when Russell Simmons called Bernie to offer a possible endorsement. He talked about really stopping animal production and ending agricultural farming for our livestock. And he said that in the interview. I happened to see it today.

Bernie said no. I think that Americans like to eat beef, they like to eat pork, they like bacon. So that was the -- he made it pretty clear that was the tipping point for him. I didn't realize that Hillary Clinton was on board with that idea.

SCIUTTO: So just to be clear, you're saying that Russell Simmons offered his endorsement to Senator Sanders before --

SANDERS: He called to talk about an endorsement and was leaning that way and he wanted to talk about this one issue. And I was there when the call was in and we thought, well, Bernie doesn't say one thing to one group of people and say something else to someone else. So, that was an idea that he brought forward.

Bernie said, no, you know, I'm really for the farmers. You know, we need to make some changes for the environment, but not the ones that he was suggesting.

SCIUTTO: Jane Sanders --

SANDERS: In terms of black voters, though --

SCIUTTO: We have to leave it there today. We appreciate you for taking the time today. It's nice to have you on CNN.

SANDERS: OK, take care. Nice to see you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, coming up next, a story that everyone is talking about today, a knife reportedly found buried on O.J. Simpson's former estate. The big question, could this be the murder weapon? Our next guest was one of the key members of that Obama defense team. We'll be on that story right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:38:10] SCIUTTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Twenty years since O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and her friend, a knife allegedly unearthed from Simpson's home is once again fueling the fascination over the so-called trial of the century.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: LAPD became aware of an item that was allegedly recovered by a citizen at the Rockingham property possibly during the demolition of the site.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: CNN correspondent Paul is covering this story in Los Angeles.

So, Paul, walk us through what we know about this knife, how it was found and really any possible connection to the O.J. Case.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN ANCHOR: OK.

So, from what we know, a retired LAPD officer within the last month who had been back in the late 1990s working on a movie shoot in uniform said that someone came up to him who had been working on the deconstruction of O.J. Simpson's former Rockingham estate and handed him a knife. Of course, with all things O.J. Simpson, the police department viewing this with a healthy bit of skepticism because at times, this sounds like inception meets soap dish.

Among other things they're going to look at this murder weapon, potential murder weapon and test it for blood, they're going to test it for DNA or anything else that could link this to the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Paul Vercammen, thank you.

Had the police discovered this knife 20 years ago, could it have made a difference in the verdict? I'm going to bring in now Alan Dershowitz. He was a member of O.J. Simpson's defense team then.

Al Dershowitz, thank you for joining us.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, FORMER O.J. SIMPSON ATTORNEY: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: You heard our reporter talk about this.

DERSHOWITZ: Sure.

SCIUTTO: I just want to ask you the potential significance of this, including the very basic question, could there still be DNA evidence on a knife that presumably was buried and we're talking about two decades ago?

[16:40:10] DERSHOWITZ: Well, there are two kinds of evidence that could have relevance. One, if there's any blood or any other kind of item that would have DNA, unlikely.

The other, it could be a knife that has the kind of sequencing that was consistent with the wounds, and so that, of course, would last. Now, you have to remember, the LAPD did a terrible job in 1995. You

know, there was actually a knife that O.J. had in a bureau in his bedroom behind a mirror, and although they purported to search the house very carefully, they never looked behind the mirror. We found, the defense team found the knife and handed it over to the court. It bore no relationship to the case, but it just illustrates what a bad job the LAPD did. If there was a knife there, they should have found it 20 years ago.

There are always two verdicts in history: one, the verdict of the court and second, the verdict of facts and history has its claims. The verdict of the court can't be reversed. We have a double jeopardy clause so he can't be retried for murder in California.

But history has its claims too. If it turns out this is a relevant piece of evidence, the public has the right to know it and change their views on the case if the evidence warrants that.

SCIUTTO: Alan, let me ask you this question. First, you know this, I just want to caution our viewers as well. We don't know the significance of this knife yet if indeed it has any tie to this case.

But as we go down this possibility here, I have spoken to defense lawyers and prosecutors who have said there is a possibility to get around double jeopardy. For instance, if you came back with a different charge, conspiracy to murder, perhaps burglary, you're a renowned legal mind. I know that you were on the defense team.

But just putting on your legal mind hat for a moment, is there any way around it if there was -- if this was determined to be new, relevant evidence? Is there any way around double jeopardy?

DERSHOWITZ: Absolutely not. The double jeopardy clause is pretty tight if the case could have been tried as a conspiracy or burglary case.

You know, the only possible way around it is if you can get a federal indictment for violation of civil rights. The double jeopardy clause doesn't preclude one jurisdiction, namely the federal government from prosecuting after another jurisdiction or state has prosecuted, but the statute of limitation has almost probably certainly passed on that. It would be very hard to find the civil rights violation here.

So, for practical purposes let's put that aside. O.J. Simpson will not be tried again. If he is, he'll be acquitted. That would be a very, very easy case for any competent defense or constitutional lawyer to win.

Now, it could impact his parole. It shouldn't legally but it could. After all the reason he's in jail for such a long time in Nevada is because, I'm sure the judge sentenced him based on the belief that he did the murder in Los Angeles and deserved to be in jail for a long time. People don't get that kind of sentence for doing what he's alleged to have done in Nevada. So, he's already been punished for that crime in Nevada but it could affect his parole eligibility.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Alan Dershowitz, we appreciate your thoughts on this. Thanks for coming on.

DERSHOWITZ: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: So, who knew what and when about the toxic tap water in Flint, Michigan? Turns out that the local EPA office knew but they didn't warn people, not for months. The frightening results of a new CNN investigation right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. A group of Washington lawmakers visiting Flint, Michigan, vowing to do everything they can to fix the toxic water crisis. For residents still forced to bathe and cook with bottled water, help cannot come soon enough.

Because until today none of Flint's corroded water pipes have been replaced and it will take months to replace all 8,000 lead service lines at a cost of $5 million, money that Flint doesn't have.

Meanwhile we are learning more about the role of the Environmental Protection Agency and how it failed to alert the public to this crisis.

CNN's Sara Ganim found a pattern at the EPA of silencing whistleblowers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The rashes, the hair loss, the brown water. We had to figure out what was going on.

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After months of no answers, Lee Ann Walters had enough.

LEEANNE WALTERS, FLINT RESIDENT: I went to the EPA and I said get to the science of it because you can't argue with science.

GANIM: Tests revealed the water coming out of the taps in the Walter's home was so polluted with lead, it was twice the level of hazardous waste.

(on camera): Most people think of the EPA as this organization that will come in in a time of crisis and fix things. Do you think that happened here?

WALTERS: Absolute low not. Not when it should have.

GANIM (voice-over): An EPA scientist drafted a memo about the high levels of lead in Walter's home, highlighting the serious concern for residents and violations of federal regulations. The memo was leaked to the public, but instead of taking tough action, the head of the regional EPA office, Susan Headman (ph), tried to keep it under wraps.

She tried to underplay the report, saying the scientist acted inappropriately by sharing his findings because it was only a draft report and that only when the report is revised and fully vetted will it be shared with the city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It justifies belief that that is what happened.

GANIM: Marc Edwards is a leading drinking water researcher who was called in to test residents' water.

[16:50:00]PROFESSOR MARC EDWARDS, VIRGINIA TECH: Who on earth would read that memo with the data showing a child had been lead poisoned and the worst lead and water that we've seen in 25 years, who would get that memo and not take it seriously?

Here she is, knowing this abuse is occurring, and remaining completely silent and letting these kids' future be destroyed? I mean, I can't -- I can't even begin to think how she might justify that to herself.

GANIM: It wasn't until nine months later that the final report was released and the EPA issued an emergency order. All that time the people of Flint continued using toxic water. The regional director, Susan Headman, resigned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

GANIM: CNN has learned that the House Committee on Oversight is now investigating how the EPA's Region Five office handled the water crisis in Flint.

A congressional research service report concluded recently that the EPA knew early on in the crisis that Michigan was in violation of federal water laws for lead and had the authority to step in, but didn't.

The EPA's inspector general is also looking into allegations of mismanagement in the EPA Region Five office under the leadership of Susan Headman. A culture that Carolyn Bohlen knows well.

She says she was reassigned after raising alarms over how the office handled sexual harassment cases. She says she's not surprised at how the EPA scientist's preliminary report was suppressed.

CAROLYN BOHLEN, EPA EMPLOYEE: I thought, well, here we go again. You have someone who's a dedicated employee, very serious about his work, very effective employee who presented the information very well, and it was disregarded.

GANIM: On its website the EPA now has a warning to the residents of Flint. Do not drink unfiltered water, it's not safe.

(on camera): Looking back, what goes through your mind when you think about how all of this unfolded?

WALTERS: I wish I would have protected my family better.

GANIM: It's not your fault.

WALTERS: No, it's not, but they're my kids and it's not just about my family. There are adults that have serious health issues now. There are teenagers that have serious health issues now. So no, it's not OK because they didn't listen. No matter how much we screamed, no matter how much we cried, no matter whatever we showed them, we were not heard.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GANIM: Now, e-mails show that the EPA did offer to send in additional experts to Flint, but people here wanting to know why the agency did not act sooner, why not tell the residents here what the EPA knew about their water.

The EPA did not -- declined to do an on camera interview with CNN, but did tell us this in a statement that the ability of the EPA to oversee was impacted by failures and resistance at the state and local levels -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Sara Ganim staying on top of this alarming story. Don't forget that the next Democratic debate is from Flint, Michigan, right here on CNN. It is this Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern hosted by CNN's Anderson Cooper.

Coming up now, a shakeup on the campaign trail. Who's got a new job now?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: The Oscars are so last week. Here in Washington one lawmaker is handing out dishonors to those people simply blowing your tax money. Jake Tapper explains in our latest installment, "America's Debt and the Economy."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): From Washington, it's the congressional waste awards. The nominees were selected by Republican Congressman Steve Russell of Oklahoma, the author of "Four Waste Watch Books."

REPRESENTATIVE STEVE RUSSELL (R), OKLAHOMA: The competition is just so close. I look at it as it's all bad because of the cost.

TAPPER: The big picture is the $19 trillion debt with no wasted amount too big or too small to ignore. At the Oscars earlier this week, Leonardo Dicaprio won best actor for "The Revenant" and his work with a bear.

Today Russell is giving an award for work with beer, specifically solar powered beer. Russell, a Tea Party favorite, takes issue with the shorts brewing company in Michigan receiving more than $35,000 from the Department of Agriculture.

The company used the money for solar panels. On Sunday, the best actress Oscar went to "The Room's" Bri Larson. Speaking of Bri, Russell is giving an award for a different kind of cheese, string cheese.

RUSSELL: And the purpose of that is?

TAPPER: Specifically $250,000 federal subsidy used to expand sales of meat infused string cheese at Burnett's Dairy in Wisconsin.

RUSSELL: They have people come in with a straight face and try to argue why that's needed, it's just absurd.

TAPPER: On Sunday, "The Martian" about a space trip gone amok was nominated but overlooked. Russell says when it comes to the actual space program, he's concerned about the lack of oversight.

SpaceX is the newest company competing with veterans Boeing and Lockheed Martin to launch satellites into orbit for the U.S. government.

The nearly $60 billion launch program aims to save money by outsourcing infrastructure and a lot of accountability to private companies themselves, but with high dollar contracts and pay loads of pricey satellites, critics like Russell say there's a risk for lost funds and potential failures.

RUSSELL: That's what we're calling out is the accountability piece, and we have to do better so that as we do exploration, as we do innovation, we're also accountable with the funds.

TAPPER: Our show comes to an end with a performance from the San Francisco mime troop --