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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

President Obama Meets With Cuban Leader Castro; Key Suspect Salah Abdeslam Captured Alive Friday; Apple Shows Off New Smaller iPhone. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 21, 2016 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:04]

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, I think part of the realization that Democrats have had in watching this is, of course, there's still a lot of Republican belief that they will be able to stop Donald Trump.

But Democrats look at how Republicans handled him, waiting so long to attack him, waiting so long to define him. And when I talk to them, they do not want to repeat the same mistake that Republicans make. And I think that's why you're starting to see some of these opening shots coming from the Dems.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN GUEST HOST: All right, Sara Murray for us in Washington, thank you so much.

I want to bring in our panel, conservative strategist Ana Navarro, Republican consultant Margaret Hoover, and former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz Amanda Carpenter.

Amanda, let's start with the Elizabeth Warren thing. What does Donald Trump get for engaging in this feud with Elizabeth Warren? And I suppose, what does she get?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he gets to pick another fight with someone who's in office.

But I do think it's very interesting for Elizabeth Warren. She is someone who's considered a hero among the progressive base, although when she went to Washington, she never really challenged Democratic leadership. She would kind of famously run away from reporters and was very tight-lipped.

It seems like someone has given her a pass to speak out against Donald Trump. I don't think she would be doing this without sanction from other Democratic officials. I would expect to see her become more of an attack dog against Donald Trump, probably doing some of the work that Hillary Clinton may not want to do.

Hillary Clinton could go give these very professional speeches at AIPAC, stay above the fray. Meanwhile, I would expect more people like Elizabeth Warren to come out, directly engage Trump and let Hillary Clinton sail high above it. BERMAN: Making Twitter a very interesting place right now.

Margaret, you're making gesticulations like you want in on this.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, another point I think that Amanda will agree is, there is this question about what happens to Bernie Sanders voters.

Is there not some overlap, some consultants argue, between Bernie Sanders voters and Elizabeth Warren, not just Elizabeth Warren voters, obvious, but Donald Trump voters? And might she not be sending a very clear signal to these white working-class populist voters on the far left that, no, no, no, Donald Trump is not going to be their guy?

If they are Sanders voters and they're Warren voters, they are not Trump voters.

BERMAN: And that would be all part of this Democratic move to start taking on Donald Trump now and not waiting.

Go ahead, Ana.

(CROSSTALK)

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Let me tell you, I agree with both Margaret and Amanda, but I just think we might be overthinking it. Maybe she just wants in on the game. She's been on the sidelines for the last several months.

Let's remember that she used to be the leader of the progressive movement for the Democrats. Today, that man, that person is Bernie Sanders. She has played a very small, if any, role at all in the presidential elections. She hasn't endorsed, and I think we could all agree that today that mantle of the progressive movement belongs to Bernie Sanders.

I think she might be having a little Twitter envy, a little -- and a spat with Donald Trump is manna from heaven for Elizabeth Warren. It gets her name out there. We are talking about her for the first time in months. It is good for him, it is good for her. This is a great scenario for both of them, frankly.

BERMAN: It's good for Twitter on its 10th birthday.

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: Yes, I just don't view Elizabeth Warren as someone who does things very impulsively.

She has a massive following, you're right, among the Democratic base, but largely for like speeches she's given, YouTube things that people go and watch a lot of. She's not a big like go out and speak in front of a rally and get them ginned up. She is kind of -- she thinks about things very carefully before engaging.

And so I think this was something that was probably coordinated with some other folks.

BERMAN: All right. There's a lot going on today.

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: I'm not saying it was impulsive. I'm just saying it was good for them.

CARPENTER: Yes. Oh, for sure. Yes.

BERMAN: There's a lot besides a Twitter war between Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump, interesting as it may be.

There's a lot else going on today. Donald Trump speaking to AIPAC, Donald Trump meeting with leaders -- well, meeting with members of Congress, shall we say, and lobbyists and former speakers of the House or one speaker of the house in Washington, D.C.

Margaret, is this Donald Trump, you know, again, trying to turn the page, trying to now move on to the general election?

HOOVER: Look, I think certainly it's an attempt to, although you could see in the press conference when he was asked who he met with, he couldn't even say who he met with. He said we will get you a list. So I don't know how much of a sort of personal overture this is to him to elected leaders.

But I do think it is, he's in Washington, he's going to give a critical speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and, yes, he is making a gesture towards working with Congress. But notice, the people that we suspect were there are all people, at least the people who have come out and said that they met with him, people whose districts admittedly went 47 percent, 50 percent for Donald Trump.

So, they're meeting with Trump frankly for themselves, to garner themselves against their own districts more than Donald Trump reaching out to them.

BERMAN: It was almost all members from Congress who have supported Donald Trump, although Tom Cotton, a senator from Arkansas, he was there, he is remaining neutral. Jim DeMint from Heritage, former South Carolina senator, he was there. He's not endorsing, as far as we know.

They were there, I suppose, for informational reasons. Bob Livingston, former almost speaker of the House, was there. He is supporting Donald Trump. Also Newt Gingrich, who has said nice things about Donald Trump, but isn't out and out supporting him.

[16:35:02]

Ana, do you think it's significant, that roster of folks there?

NAVARRO: Well, if you take a look at the roster of folks that you just mentioned, there's a lot, a hell of a lot of formers on that list.

I think a lot of those formers are now in the private sector, are lobbyists and probably trying to figure out how they're going to continue making a dime with Donald Trump as a possible nominee or a possible president.

I think that, you know, it gives them a role. I was surprised at how small the group was that was invited, reportedly, the names that have been reported. I would have expected that he would have gotten, garnered much more interest.

But I think he's still somewhat toxic for a lot of Republicans. There's a lot of Republicans who can't be in the room with Donald Trump because I can tell you that, where I am, it would probably mean that Congressman Carlos Curbelo would lose his district if he was, or lose the election in his district if he was.

BERMAN: Let's talk about the AIPAC speech, because Donald Trump is going to speak there I guess little more than an hour from now.

This will be a different speech than we have seen, Amanda. We're told that he's going to use a teleprompter. He's not going to speak off the cuff. He has had help with Jeff Sessions and some others preparing this speech.

How carefully do you think folks will be watching this to see if there are signs that he is approaching foreign policy differently?

CARPENTER: Well, this is a very sophisticated audience. They are used to hearing foreign policy leaders. They are used to hearing very informed, high-level speeches from high-ranking officials. And I think there's going to be a contrast that they're looking for between how Hillary Clinton spoke and how Donald Trump speaks tonight.

Listen, they have two of each party's front-runners speaking to them today. They're going to be comparing and contrasting. Hillary Clinton gave a very substantive speech. She touched all of the right issues, talking about her experience working on the Iran deal, talking about these historical things that are important to their community. It was a really good speech.

I'm not sure Donald Trump can match it. There's things I disagreed with in Hillary's speech, but you can't say it wasn't thoughtful, it wasn't carefully considered. If Donald Trump doesn't reach that level, that group is most certainly going to notice.

BERMAN: Let's play a little bit of that speech that we actually have, Amanda, because it's very interesting what Hillary Clinton did during that speech, which you just praised, which is interesting too.

Play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, in a democracy, we're going to have differences. But what Americans are hearing on the campaign trail this year is something else entirely, encouraging violence, playing coy with white supremacists, calling for 12 million immigrants to be rounded up and deported, demanding we turn away refugees because of their religion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Margaret Hoover, that was an argument, much of it at least, that we have heard on the Republican primary campaign trail and there it was just from Hillary Clinton in front of AIPAC.

HOOVER: To say nothing of Israel-American friendship or policy.

What Donald Trump has to do first and foremost when he walks in there is explain away his position that he would be an impartial arbiter in negotiating Middle East peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. This is an incredibly heavy task he has and we have never heard him speak thoughtfully or discernibly about foreign policy.

Everybody is going to be paying attention to every single word he makes because this man has to prove that not only does he have a political philosophy that's going to guide the United States in world affairs if he's the leader of the free world, but also that there's a discernible political philosophy that's more than just isolationism and strong-man-ism.

BERMAN: Ana, I want to ask you one last question. We had Ron Nehring, who is a national spokesperson for Ted Cruz, on a second ago.

And he said he doesn't want to do away with rule 40. I don't want to get into the intricacies of convention rules, but basically what that means is he only thinks that Ted Cruz and Donald Trump should be possible candidates at the Republican Convention.

Do you think that would satisfy a lot of the establishment Republicans right now who are part of the anti-Trump movement if their only two choices were Cruz or Trump?

NAVARRO: I think as long as -- as a card-carrying member of the establishment, I think at least as there is at least some alternative to Trump, a lot of us will be happy.

Satisfied may be a bridge too far to cross. But, look, John, the Trump folks, Trump and his folks are arguing that we must -- that if they don't -- if they're not awarded the nomination, if he gets close to 1,237, then that's going to lead to disruption. Well, that is changing the rules.

The rules as they stand right now are that there could be a brokered convention. Frankly, there may be nobody that gets to 1,237 before then if it is a brokered convention. And until and unless somebody does, whether it is Ted Cruz, John Kasich or Donald Trump, in 10 ballots or five ballots or 500 ballots, if we have to stay there for three months without food and water, that's when we will have a nominee.

It is not a random number. It is a majority plus, one. BERMAN: Five hundred ballots. You heard it right here from Ana

Navarro.

Ana, Margaret Hoover, Amanda Carpenter.

NAVARRO: By the way, it would be great for ratings, or not.

[16:40:02]

BERMAN: My kid's got to go to college. Thank you so much.

Tonight, only on CNN, the final five candidates make their cases to the voters in a CNN presidential prime-time event. It starts at 8:00 Eastern right here on CNN. That will be very interesting. It's all ahead of contests tomorrow in Arizona, Utah and Idaho for the Democrats, and we will have special coverage all day long.

Turning now to our world lead, a live look right now as President Obama is in Cuba talking to entrepreneurs. This is an historic visit to Cuba. That is an understatement. But beyond the pomp and circumstance, there are several key policy differences. We will talk about what's ahead on this trip.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right, we're back with the world lead.

You're looking at live pictures right now of President Obama. He is in Havana right now in a discussion with U.S. and Cuban business leaders. He's wrapping up a panel at a brewery along Havana's waterfront right now.

And before that, President Obama had a message for the people of Cuba, which of course is still under communist rule. The president held a joint address with Cuban leader Raul Castro, a joint news conference that was fascinating. It was showed on airwaves controlled of course by the Cuban government.

And it followed elaborate welcome ceremonies, as President Obama became the first U.S. leader to visit Cuba in almost 90 years.

Not everyone, though, celebrating this historic visit.

CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta, traveling with the president, joins us live from Havana.

Jim, many children of the Cold War era, which is both of us, never thought they would witness this, although I think, for you in particular, the child of Cuban immigrants, this has got to be particularly poignant.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right.

It's an amazing moment, John, no question. President Obama is putting his foreign policy doctrine to the test, opening up a new chapter of engagement with Cuba, an old adversary that has resisted change for half-a-century, but is finally showing signs of progress, even if all of our questions are not answered.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): It's a sign that decades-old enemies can one day change their tune. That's the U.S. national anthem being played on Cuban soil. As President Obama joined the island's ruler, Raul Castro, in Havana, to close out this final chapter of the cold war.

While there were the usual diplomatic gestures as Mr. Obama signed a book, the president also delivered a tough message to the Cubans, to begin respecting basic human freedoms.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: That Cuba's destiny will not be decided by the United States or any other nation.

ACOSTA: But Castro had his own set of grievances, right at the top, the U.S. embargo strangling the Cuban economy that still stands. But he did not answer the question on why his country holds political prisoners.

(on camera): Why do you have Cuban political prisoners?

RAUL CASTRO, CUBAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Give me a list of the political prisoners and I will release them immediately.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president is going around Congress to weaken the embargo, loosening travel restrictions on Americans who want to see the island and bringing with him big hotel company CEOs, who want to turn Cuban mojitos into money.

Just hours before President Obama set foot in Cuba, there was a vivid reminder that changes won't come quickly, as local authorities rounded up a group of protesters known as the Ladies in White. Critics say Mr. Obama is propping up a dictatorship.

MARION SMITH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF VICTIMS OF COMMUNISM: unless human rights is at the very top of the agenda, it will have a negative impact and push into the shadows the dissidents, the political prisoners that are still in Cuba today.

ACOSTA: But even in Cuba's dissident community, there is hope. Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, a former political prisoner, said the president's visit can provide a much-needed push. Freed under the Obama administration's diplomatic breakthrough with Cuba, he's calling on the president to think of Reagan.

FORMER PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

ACOSTA: And demand that age-old barriers start coming down in Cuba.

JOSE DANIEL FERRER GARCIA, CUBAN DISSIDENT (through translator): We have to tear down many walls, he tells me, so that the Cuban people can live with dignity.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA: Now, the president will deliver an address to the Cuban people tomorrow and also meet with Cuban dissidents here and the White House says Mr. Obama will once again call for an expansion of human rights in Cuba.

Then he'll wind down his trip tomorrow enjoying a pastime shared by both the U.S. and Cuba, a baseball game between the Cuban national team and the Tampa Bay Rays.

John, getting back to my question to Raul Castro, he didn't answer the question, but as one White House official noted to me earlier today, at least the question was asked on Cuban soil -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Which in and of itself was fascinating to see. Jim Acosta, thank you so much.

A global manhunt under way for another terror suspect after we learn the only survivor of the Paris massacre -- the only surviving attacker was getting ready for a new attack.

And then size does matter for Apple. The tech giant releasing a new iPhone and it seems what's old is new again.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:51:18]

BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Topping our World Lead, an urgent international manhunt under way for another suspect believed to be involved in the Paris terror attacks. This comes as we are getting new details about what led to the capture of Salah Abdeslam, the sole surviving Paris attacker.

He was captured by Belgian anti-terror police on Friday. The 26-year- old Abdeslam, who had been on the run for four months was planning future attacks, that is according to Belgian authorities, and may already have had the manpower and the fire power to do it.

Let's get right to CNN's senior international correspondent, Nima Elbagir, live in Brussels for us. Nima, what are your sources telling you about the manhunt and how authorities tracked down Abdeslam?

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it now appears that it was two extraordinary instances of happenstance that brought about the full of Salah Abdeslam after weeks and months on the run.

First there was that firefight unexpected as far as Belgian authorities were concerned at that first location last week where Abdeslam managed to escape. The trail then we understand went cold.

It was only when Abdeslam and an accomplice contacted a man already counterterrorism officials tell us already under their surveillance net that they became aware that he was hiding in Molenbeek, just a street away from his childhood home. We're also learning new details about what they found in that first address and it is incredibly disturbing. Authorities say that in addition to a large cache of weapons, there were also detonators at that address, which gives credence to the working theory that they're trying to close in on.

That there was another attack, new attacks, that this new network that Abdeslam had formed around himself during his weeks and months on the run that were planning assaults here in Belgium -- John.

BERMAN: And how are European governments right now responding to these heightened threats?

ELBAGIR: That's a very good question. France has already deployed on its border and Interpol is warning other European countries to remain very, very vigilant. Because as the Belgian foreign minister was saying just yesterday, John, they believe that this new network isn't just limited to here in Belgium.

They believe that there's a possibility that fighters from Syria could be on their way to here in Europe and their worry is that the capture of Abdeslam and the fears that his network could have about what he could be telling authorities could possibly be pushing the fast forward button on a lot of these plans.

So authorities say that the threat level here, it's currently three, the second highest, but they are reappraising it constantly -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Nima Elbagir for us in Brussels, lot has gone on over last 72 hours. Nima, thank you so much.

Today's Money Lead, small is the new big. Apple going old school, like 2012 old school, launching a new line of devices that remixes many of the old ones like a smaller iPhone.

CNN tech correspondent, Samuel Burke joins me now live from the Apple campus in Cupertino, California. Sam, what's your biggest takeaway from the Apple announcements today?

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN TECH CORRESPONDENT: Everything is shrinking and the prices are shrinking along with it, which is great news for consumers. Let's start off with the newest iPhone, the iPhone SE. Basically it looks like the iPhone 5 but has the juice of the iPhone 6, the faster processor, better cameras.

Now it has Apple Pay and touch I.D. so you can use your fingerprint to get in if you've been holding out for a price, it's going to be $399. A lot less than what people expected.

The iPad pro, that 12.9 inch iPad now just 9.7 inches and $599. Also the Apple watch price down a bit, $299 and some new bands -- John.

[16:55:11]BERMAN: In 10 seconds or less, what are the new features for the Apple TV and Watch?

BURKE: You're going to like this one, you're a sports guy. You can watch two games at once now. What I'm going to like and a whole bunch of other people, you can now use Siri to type in your password. Instead of having to use one of those old keyboards, you just use your voice so faster to get in your password.

BERMAN: Samuel Burke, two games at once, nothing better than that. Thank you so much.

Back to politics next for us. Donald trump right here on CNN, our extended sit-down interview right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, outsider and insider, Donald Trump visits Washington.