Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Bernie and the Pope; Terror Arrests; Clinton Goes Upstate, Sanders Campaign in Brooklyn; Trump Delegate Czar: "Everything's Going to Come Together". Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 8, 2016 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:05]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Two major terrorists, terror arrests and potentially a huge step in stopping the next attack.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Breaking news out of Belgium, the key remaining suspect in the Paris terrorist attacks captured and he's not alone. What could they know about plans for another ISIS massacre?

Also, one is the leader of the Catholic Church, the other a Jewish kid from Brooklyn who really wants to be president, both really big on fixing income inequality. Bernie Sanders is heading to the Vatican as his race with Hillary Clinton gets a bit unholy.

Plus, New York state of mind. Donald Trump going all in on his home state, as he bends his strategy to fight off a delegate rebellion.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're going to begin with breaking news. A five-month terrorist manhunt is over. Belgian officials say they have arrested at least two terror suspects connected to the Paris and Brussels attacks, including 31-year-old Mohamed Abrini, who French officials say helped orchestrate and execute the deadly rampage in Paris, killing 130 innocent people.

Abrini has been on the run since November. You can see him here caught by security cameras at a gas station with Salah Abdeslam, the alleged eighth Paris terrorist two days before those attacks.

Let's get right to CNN's chief national security, Jim Sciutto.

Jim, put this in perspective for us. What do we know at this point?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, this is key.

We know that both of these men, Mohamed Abrini and Osama Krayem, are central, not peripheral, to the two deadliest terror attacks in Europe of the last decade, in Paris and in Brussels. Abrini even driving one of those Paris terrorists to and from the deadly rampage. The key question now, is Abrini the same man seen with the Brussels attackers right before they struck?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO (voice-over): One of the most terrorists in Europe is now under arrest, Mohamed Abrini, with ties to several of the Paris attackers, captured in Brussels today. Abrini has multiple connections to the deadliest terror attack in Europe in more than a decade.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's quite significant because he is one of the last people that they found who played a critical role in the Paris attacks. He also appears to have played a critical role in the Brussels attacks. He links these two cells together.

SCIUTTO: Abrini was caught on surveillance video driving Salah Abdeslam, one of the lead Paris terrorists, to the French capital two days before the attacks. The car seen at this gas station is the same vehicle used to transport some of the terrorists that deadly night.

Abrini also rented an apartment where two of the Paris attackers stayed. And after the Paris rampage, he returned to Belgium with Abdeslam before both disappeared. Questions now as to whether Abrini is the so-called man in the hat seen with the two suicide bombers at the Brussels Airport before he escaped on foot.

Just yesterday, police released a series of surveillance videos tracking his movements.

BERGEN: He doesn't talk. What is in his computer, what is in his cell phones, what are in the papers that are found at the place where he was arrested and the pocket litter he's carrying, you have to analyze that very quickly.

SCIUTTO: Also arrested today, Osama Krayem, who Belgium state media are reporting was seen in a Brussels metro station with a suicide bomber who soon after would detonate an explosive inside a subway car at a different station, killing 14 people and wounding 90.

Police reportedly found the DNA of both Abrini and Krayem at the a apartment in Schaerbeek where the Brussels attackers built their bombs.

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT (RET.), FORMER U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR PLANS AND STRATEGY: They're probably not going to get the intelligence from these guys if they clam up. And the lawyers are going to tell them not to talk. What they have got to do is widen the investigation, widen the intelligence gathering, make sure that the intelligence goes well beyond Belgium and France.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: The urgent focus now for European police is uncovering the rest of this vast terror network and, crucially, preventing new attacks. You will remember that the Brussels attacks followed the arrest of

Salah Abdeslam. The concern now is that terrorists might act now, carry out more deadly terror, Jake, before police discover them.

TAPPER: All right, Jim Sciutto, thanks so much.

Let's delve into all of this news with our terrorism experts, CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank and former CIA operative Bob Baer.

Paul, let me start with you.

Authorities say that it's more than likely that Mohamed Abrini is the man with the hat seen in the security video released just yesterday. That man is obviously wanted for his involvement as the third bomber in the Brussels attacks. Does that seen credible to you that Abrini would be both men?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, the investigators now are looking into that, whether Abrini was the man you're seeing on the screen right now at the airport. They are investigating that.

[16:05:05]

Their wording in the press conference, Jake, suggests they certainly suspect that is the case, but they need to do some more information to ascertain that for sure, in their words, to positively identify him at the airport.

TAPPER: Bob, that's why, obviously, officials released video and photographs, right? But if Abrini is the man in the videos and he did have a role in the Brussels attacks, this seems like an extraordinarily quick success. What did you make of that video?

BOB BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, what I make of it is, he was definitely involved in the Paris attack the 30th of November.

And then he goes back to Brussels and with perfect immunity goes on and plans the attacks on the airport and the metro. I mean, this is incredible that somebody under that scrutiny, the most sought-after man in the world, is able to put together an attack and has lasted this long.

It speaks to the tradecraft of these people, that they're good. They can stay off the net, they can stay off the telephone. It talks about just how bold they are, and also the problems the Belgian police have not finding this guy. This is just extraordinary. A guy at the center of two attacks has managed to survive all these months.

And I think the tapes, probably they got very lucky or they got a source, one of the two.

TAPPER: So, Paul, the Brussels attack happened last month. Why do you think authorities didn't put out this video before?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, we don't know. And we don't yet know whether putting out this video actually led to these arrests today. And I think we need to be very cautious about that, because I can tell

you there are all sorts of other leads that they have been following. It may not have been this CCTV footage that led to the arrests today, but certainly there is quite a coincidence that just the following day that you see these major arrests.

These were the two most wanted men in Europe, Mohamed Abrini, and also Osama Krayem, both very much integral members of this Brussels and Paris attack cell that moved over from Syria, through Greece, into Europe in the months before the Paris attacks. Some of them carried out the Paris attacks. Some of them stayed in Brussels to carry out the attacks there.

Mohamed Abrini's fingerprints and DNA were found in the same hiding place that Salah Abdeslam was hiding out in Brussels in the months after the Paris attacks, suggesting he was also holed up there, but may have escaped from that location, obviously not being arrested last month.

But the worry moving forward, Jake, is that it was three weeks ago on a Friday that they arrested Salah Abdeslam and an accomplice. And then other people who were part of that cell accelerated their attack planning and you saw the Brussels attacks. Well, they still think there are more than a dozen people connected to this cell still at large, people who played a logistical support role.

TAPPER: Right.

CRUICKSHANK: We at CNN, we have the identities of four of the people that they are looking for that they suspect had a connection. They include two Belgians, a Dutch national and somebody who spent a long time living in Western Germany, so a lot of concern moving forward.

TAPPER: Bob, it's clear that Brussels is a hotbed of terrorist activity. How worried should authorities be that another attack, as Paul suggests, may be imminent?

BAER: Jake, with the availability of weapons and making this TATP explosives, I think it's almost inevitable it's going to happen.

I mean, the Belgian police have finally caught on what they have got in their hands. But on the other hand, this group is so diffuse and so disciplined that they're still capable of launching another attack. And I wouldn't be surprised if we see one. I can't tell how soon.

TAPPER: Bob Baer, Paul Cruickshank, thank you both so much.

Turning now to our politics lead, Bernie Sanders about to take time off from the campaign trail right before the crucial New York primary, but he's got a really good excuse -- that story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:13:00]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The politics lead now, Bernie Sanders taking a working vacation. The

first Jew in American history to win delegates, much less primaries, will be jetting off to Vatican City for meeting with the pope. The trip comes right as his battle for the Democratic nomination has started to look like a true battle, instead of a series of polite disagreements.

CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny is in Brooklyn.

Jeff, sanders is doing everything to shore up his street cred as Bernie from Brooklyn, eating pizza like someone who actually knows how to eat pizza. He and his campaign staffers are also at the same time talking openly about a potential contested convention.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: They are indeed, Jake, perhaps taking a cue from the Republican playbook here. They are threatening the possibility of a contested convention when Democrats meet in Philadelphia in July.

Party leaders tell me that is a very, very slim possibility. The Clinton campaign knows the only way to stop it is to keep winning and winning big. That's why the fight for New York is so critical.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY (voice-over): A cease-fire today in the heated Democratic presidential race, Bernie Sanders backing down after repeatedly saying Hillary Clinton is not qualified to be president.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The people of this country understand we have some enormous crises, and they want the candidates to deal with these crises.

ZELENY: The war of words cooling for a moment, but the race remains highly contentious.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You may have heard Senator Sanders say I'm unqualified to be president. Well, seriously...

(BOOING)

CLINTON: Seriously, I have been called a lot of things over the years, but unqualified has not been one of them.

ZELENY: It's a bitter fight for the New York primary.

SANDERS: Thank you, South Bronx!

ZELENY: With both sides staking out their own turf.

Visiting Buffalo today, Clinton took a page out of the playbook from her two winning U.S. Senate races here.

CLINTON: I am so excited to be here and to see the extraordinary achievements of this community. ZELENY: Sanders went home to Brooklyn, to the streets of his

childhood, reminding voters he's a New Yorker by blood.

SANDERS: I spent the first 18 years of my life in

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am so excited to be here and to see the extraordinary achievements of this community.

[16:15:04] JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Sanders went home to Brooklyn, to the streets of his childhood, reminding voters he's a New Yorker by blood.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I spent the first 18 years of my life in apartment 2C right here.

ZELENY: The race for the White House has taken a decidedly local turn, with the nerve centers of both campaigns in Brooklyn. Each office taking on the style of its candidate. Inside the Sanders office, supporters are trying to channel his momentum into a New York upset.

ROBERT BECKER, SANDERS DEP. NATIONAL FIELD DIRECTOR: Every state we've gone to we've been told exactly what we can't do and we continue to defy the odds and win.

ZELENY: At Clinton headquarters, a far larger team is trying to protect Clinton's front-runner status.

Today on CNN, Sanders campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, said his team is gearing up for a convention floor fight.

JEFF WEAVER, BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: We have many people affiliated with the campaign who have floor experience in the Democratic Party. And so, we're looking at all of our options.

ZELENY: But Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook dismissed that possibility.

ROBBY MOOK, CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: The stakes are so high here for Democrats, for Americans, that senator Sanders will believe in the importance of bringing this party together and making sure that the White House stays in Democratic hands.

ZELENY: On the campaign trail in Pennsylvania today, former President Bill Clinton sought to move beyond his heated exchange with protesters on Thursday, whom he tangled with for 15 minutes.

BILL CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It bothers me now when that happens. So I did something yesterday in Philadelphia. I almost want to apologize for it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: Now, Brooklyn is at the very heart of this presidential campaign for at least the next 11 days or so, Jake.

You can see the crowd behind me gathering here for a rally with Senator Sanders, but he is actually going to take a detour from the campaign trail next Friday and go to the Vatican in Rome to attend an economic conference put on by the Vatican and Pope Francis. Some back and forth about if protocol was violated, he announced that he was going. Some people saying he was just doing it to get the Catholic vote.

In either case, the fight for New York is on. Bernie Sanders believes that a strong win here can keep his campaign alive -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.

Joining me now here in New York, senior media advisor to the Bernie Sanders campaign, Tad Devine.

Tad, thanks for being here.

TAD DEVINE, SENIOR MEDIA ADVISOR TO THE BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN: Good to be with you.

TAPPER: You've already said that you're not familiar with the particulars about the Vatican thing, so I'll avoid those questions.

DEVINE: Thanks.

TAPPER: But Senator Sanders is backing off his claim that Secretary Clinton isn't qualified to be president because of her poor judgment. In retrospect, Clinton never directly said that Sanders wasn't qualified. Did Senator Sanders and your campaign overreact?

DEVINE: No, we didn't, Jake.

You know, I went to law school a long time ago and Hillary Clinton did too and there's a great way you learn when you go to law school, how to say things without saying them. Jeff, I think, an excellent report on Tuesday night after Bernie Sanders won a huge victory in Wisconsin and said the Clinton campaign had a new strategy. They were going to disqualify Bernie Sanders and then defeat him.

That disqualification strategy was pursued at the candidate level on down. Secretary Clinton the next morning three times refused to say whether or not Bernie Sanders was qualified to be president.

Her campaign continues to this day, to this hour to refuse to answer that simple question. So, we know what they were doing. We know what the New York primary is like. They want to fight about qualifications, we took them on. I have no regret about that at all.

TAPPER: Paul Krugman of "The New York Times" wrote this morning about the nasty turn in the Democratic race. He wrote, quote, "Mr. Sanders is starting to sound like his worst followers. Bernie is becoming a Bernie Bro." Krugman goes on to write that the campaign has, quote, "brought out a streak of petulant self-righteousness among some supporters. Has it brought out that streak in the candidate, too?"

The implication, obviously, is that it has.

DEVINE: Well, he couldn't be more wrong. Listen, Paul Krugman every couple of weeks writes a column attacking Bernie Sanders. His views about the economy and Bernie Sanders are as different as day and night.

Bernie Sanders understands that the economy of America is rigged, that it's sending almost all new wealth to the top and the rigged economy is held in place by a corrupt system of campaign finance. I know Mr. Krugman doesn't agree, but that's Bernie Sanders' stance and that's why he's running for president.

TAPPER: I want to play that moment again from Philadelphia yesterday, former President Bill Clinton taking on some Black Lives Matter protesters who were interrupting his rally. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I don't know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out onto the street to murder other African- American children. Maybe you thought they were good citizens. She didn't. She didn't.

You are defending the people who killed the lives you say matter. Tell the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Former President Bill Clinton defending his wife's remark from back then when she referred to super predators. She has said that she regrets making that comment. Former President Bill Clinton saying today he felt, quote, "I almost want to apologize for the shouting match."

What did you make of that?

DEVINE: Well, listen, it's difficult on the campaign trail, particularly when you're confronted by protesters. I think Secretary Clinton and President Clinton need to realize the Black Lives Matter is a very important movement, that the young people who are behind it have real grievances that they're trying to air.

[16:20:07] TAPPER: You don't think they realize that?

DEVINE: Well, I don't think judging by President Clinton's reaction, no, I don't think he realized it at that moment. I think today he tried to move back and I think that's a very good thing for him to do.

TAPPER: Senator Heidi Heitkamp, who we should not, has endorsed Hillary Clinton. She told "The Washington Post", quote, "It's really important everybody take a pause, that every calm down. At this point in campaign, people get tired, say things they don't mean to, emotions get raw."

Do you ever worry that things right now are so angry if, and I know you think Sanders will be the nominee, that if he isn't, that there are a whole bunch of Sanders supporters that are so angry at Hillary Clinton that they'll never vote for her and that could hand the election to the Republicans?

DEVINE: I don't think we're anywhere near that point, Jake. I mean, we saw in 2000 --

TAPPER: Have you checked out Twitter?

DEVINE: Well, yes --

TAPPER: Have you read the tweets?

DEVINE: Well, I watched the 2008 campaign and I think it was much more vitriolic, frankly. I think when Hillary Clinton was saying, "Shame on you, Barack Obama", and attacking President Obama, and there was some tough back and forth between both of those campaigns, they found a way to find common ground and come together.

I think -- we believe Bernie Sanders is going to be the nominee of the party. It's going to be hard to put together. We won't be able to do it without the support of Hillary Clinton and others.

So, you know, and I know that Bernie Sanders understands that we cannot have Donald Trump or Ted Cruz to be the president of the United States. So we'll come together, we'll find a way. No, I don't think the campaign has gone too far.

We want a campaign that disagrees on issues and I hope we get that campaign here in New York

TAPPER: All right. I'm going to forward you ten tweets tomorrow and we'll see what you think then.

Tad Devine, thank you so much.

Forget Madison Square Garden, we're taking the 3 train to Brooklyn for the Democratic debate next Thursday. It's Clinton v. Sanders live, 9:00 Eastern, only on CNN. Do not miss it. It will be moderated by New York's own Wolf Blitzer.

The Republican establishment has made it clear they want anyone but Trump, but why are Republican members of the Senate still wishy-washy when it comes to the only alternate, Ted Cruz. We'll ask one senator who has endorsed Cruz, next.

Then, Hillary Clinton's first time in the media spotlight was hard to forget when she said she wasn't standing by her man like country singer Tammy Wynette. A look at how Clinton is still haunted by those comments more than 20 years later. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:26:37] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

It is a mad dash for delegates. Donald Trump's newly empowered convention manager tells CNN that he is confident Trump will get the support he needs to win. But based upon how Trump has been outmaneuvered by the Cruz campaign in the local delegate conventions in places like Louisiana and just a few minutes ago in Colorado, Trump campaign confidence when it comes to delegates might be as well placed as a "make America great again" hat worn on a jaunt down 125th Street.

CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is in Las Vegas where Cruz will soon be trying to woo donors. Jim Cruz is also planning to address this Colorado convention tomorrow. He'll be the only one of the candidates to do so.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, every delegate counts. Donald Trump is still laying low back in New York, Jake, but not Ted Cruz. He is heading out west to meet with potential donors here in Las Vegas before seeking out more delegates in Colorado tomorrow.

It's all part of this new intense phase of the campaign -- the delegate fight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Inside Trump world, it's a new day in the GOP delegate battle, and Donald Trump's new general in charge of racking up the magic number needed to clinch the Republican nomination is predicting victory.

PAUL MANAFORT, DONALD TRUMP'S CONVENTION MANAGER: It will be apparent to the world that Trump is over the 1,237 number. At that point in time when it is apparent, everything is going to come together.

ACOSTA: Trump's convention manager Paul Manafort told CNN's Chris Cuomo he's now revamping the front-runner's delegate war plans. It's a new relationship with Trump's current campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.

MANAFORT: This is an example of Donald Trump managing and the kind of leadership he'll bring to the presidency after November. Campaigns have different phases.

ACOSTA: And while Manafort pushed back on the notion Lewandowski is being sidelined after a string of campaign setbacks, he made it clear he answers only to Trump.

MANAFORT: I listen to everybody, but I have one man that's -- who's voice sounds - was louder than everyone else.

ACOSTA: Manafort's voice comes at a crucial time as Ted Cruz is implementing his own delegate strategy, to grab them wherever he can. Case in point, this weekend, Cruz is scheduled to visit Colorado,

where Republicans are holding their own convention to select delegates, a contest the Texas senator is favored to win.

JOEL CRANK, COLORADO RNC DELEGATE: Ted Cruz is the type of person who will stand up for what he believes in. Well, standing up for the American people, and that's what speaks to the voters in Colorado.

ACOSTA: It's a trip Trump decided against in the hopes of a landslide over Cruz in the New York primary.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, we have a clear path forward to get to 1,237 delegates. It's difficult. We've got to win and we've got to win consistently.

ACOSTA: Cruz told Dana Bash he's laughing off the R-rated welcome he's receiving in the Big Apple after he slammed Trump's New York values.

CRUZ: I laughed out loud. Look, I have never been popular with left wing journalists or tabloids.

ACOSTA: Lagging behind in the delegate fight, John Kasich is making the case he won't be dead on arrival at the GOP convention this summer.

AD ANNOUNCER: Don't be fooled, Ted Cruz can't win the nomination outright and he can't defeat Hillary Clinton either.

ACOSTA: With a tough new ad, Kasich argues he still has the best shot of defeating Hillary Clinton and he's warning voters Trump's "Make America Great Again" message is a general election disaster.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're not winning? We're winning on about everything. We are still the strongest country by far in the entire world and people ought to stop whining about America. That's playing to people's fears.

(END VIDEOTAPE)