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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Criminal Charges Brought in Flint Water Crisis; Obama Visits Saudi Arabia; U.S. Designed Bombs Allegedly Used To Kill Yemeni Civilians; Harriet Tubman To Replace Jackson On The $20. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired April 20, 2016 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD, Jake Tapper here.
Our national lead now. Nearly years after the city of Flint began exposing tens of thousands of its residents to toxic, lead-laced water, some government officials are a step closer to being held responsible.
Just minutes ago, two state officials, Mike Prysby and Stephen Busch -- or Stephen Busch -- pleaded not guilty to six felony charges against them, including misconduct in office and tampering with evidence. A Flint city official will also be charged.
The Michigan state attorney general says these criminal charges are only the beginning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDY ARENA, CHIEF INVESTIGATOR: We will get to the answers, and we will hold those accountable. We're not targeting any persons or people. Nobody is off-limits either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Let's bring in CNN correspondent Sara Ganim. She is in Flint, Michigan.
Sara, you spoke to one of the three officials who admitted to you that he altered water quality reports?
SARA GANIM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I did talk to him, and he says he was directed to do that by state officials, and when he tried to raise concerns, he was shot down. He told me he regrets that he didn't do more.
Meanwhile, for the people here in Flint who for two years, almost two years, were called complainers and liars, this day means a lot, Jake. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
GANIM (voice-over): Allegations of tampering, negligence, purposefully altering test results to make it look like Flint's water supply was safe when it was not.
TODD FLOOD, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: They failed Michigan families. Indeed, they failed us all. I don't care where you live.
GANIM: Two officials with the state Department of Environmental Quality, Stephen Busch and Mike Prysby, facing charges of official misconduct, tampering with evidence and violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Prosecutors say they deliberately failed to treat the water properly, leading to high levels of lead, bacteria and disease. The crisis has left Flint deprived of clean water for nearly two years. It caused hundreds of Flint people to be poisoned with lead; 12 people died of the waterborne Legionnaires' disease. And officials are investigating. They suspect it was caused by the poorly treated water.
FLOOD: No one is above the law.
GANIM: Another official at the city's water treatment plant also charged with helping to cover up the warning signs that Flint's water was toxic. Mike Glasgow told CNN last month in his only sit-down interview that he tried to do the right thing, but was directed by Busch and Prysby to change the water testing report in 2015.
(on camera): So you changed the report with the lead numbers in Flint residences. Did you do that to try to cover up what was happening?
MIKE GLASGOW, FLINT LABORATORY AND WATER QUALITY SUPERVISOR: No. I only did it because I was instructed to.
GANIM: Did you ever argue with them on whether or not you should change it?
GLASGOW: No, I just asked the question why. And they gave -- they cited some, I guess, solidified reasons -- reasoning to remove a couple items, so I didn't question it much further.
GANIM (voice-over): Glasgow says Busch and Prysby convinced him to make the changes for technical reasons. He believed it was because some homes only had partial lead piping. He says he didn't feel he had the power to overrule their decision, but prosecutors say that isn't enough.
FLOOD: That defense didn't work in several places when you're ordered to do something, right, Nuremberg and the like? It's a tough, tough situation with regards to Mr. Glasgow. But when you did a criminal act, an overt act, and you had the corrupt mind to do that act, you're going to be charged.
GANIM (on camera): There may be some people out there, some members of the community who believe that you share some responsibility for this. What do you say to them?
GLASGOW: I think about that every day. I was a key figure, I guess, in some of us looking at and operating the treatment plant, overseeing some of the sampling. But born and raised here in Flint, I would never do nothing to hurt this city or its citizens.
GANIM: Now, just a few minutes ago, Stephen Busch was arraigned in and pleaded not guilty to these charges. Mike Prysby has not been arraigned yet. Neither has Mike Glasgow. And neither could be reached for comment.
Jake, as for what is next, the prosecutors said they will go all the way to the top, if necessary. No one is ruled out as they continue their investigation and that could include the governor -- Jake.
TAPPER: Sara Ganim in Flint, Michigan, thank you so much.
Saudi Arabia not exactly rolling out the red carpet for President Obama today, as questions surround our ally's possible involvement in 9/11 and their role in a deadly civil war in neighboring Yemen.
Then, money, money, money. The bills in your wallet are about to get a face-lift and women are cashing in. Who is replacing Old Hickory, President Andrew Jackson?
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Let's turn now to our world lead, a chilly reception as President Obama arrived in Saudi Arabia today for a summit of Gulf countries. There were no kisses from the kingdom or even a handshake from King Salman, the way he did with other leaders who arrived earlier today.
Instead, Saudi Arabia dispatched the governor of its capital city of Riyadh.
CNN's Michelle Kosinski is traveling with President Obama.
Michelle, what's the source of this apparent tension?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jake.
Well, there are many sources. And the White House is pushing back a little bit on that being a snub. They said originally the Saudis wanted to have a larger welcoming ceremony, but the White House decided to show up later. And the White House now is saying that this bilateral meeting today with the Saudi king went better than expected, that it lasted two-and-a-half-hours, that it was unusual in its breadth, and it wasn't perfunctory, as it sometimes is.
In fact, they are describing this as a clearing of the air on virtually all of these tensions. And here are a few of them. I mean, the Iran nuclear deal, the Saudis were already upset about this, the U.S. negotiating with Iran, which is Saudi Arabia's biggest rival.
In Syria, the Saudis were upset that President Obama didn't meet his red line on chemical weapons and strike President Assad, as he originally said he would. Saudis would also like to know, what exactly is the endgame in Syria, what is the U.S.' goal there?
The White House says that the Saudi king and President Obama tonight even talked about that "Atlantic" article that has made so many waves, that raised questions yet again over whether President Obama even sees Saudi Arabia as a real ally and whether he thinks that they are pulling their weight in the fight against ISIS.
And then, of course, is the September 11 question, this legislation that is pending in the Senate, but is now on hold, over whether American victims of terror should be able to sue Saudi Arabia, as well as the pending declassification of those 28 pages from the 9/11 Commission report that could implicate some Saudis.
[16:45:17] Now in this bilateral meeting, it's not as if everything was solved but the White House says this is progress and at least clearing the air on some of the awkwardness and on a more serious level the tensions that were really affecting this relationship -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Michelle Kosinski, traveling with President Obama, thank you so much.
Likely to come up in President Obama's chat with the Saudi king is the civil war on that country's doorstep in Yemen. It is one of the least covered conflicts in the world right now.
But know this, American weapons or American-designed weapons are reportedly being used to kill civilians there in Yemen. A year ago last month, Yemen, a country of 25 million went to war with itself and with al Qaeda.
Iran is supporting Huthi (ph) rebels. The Saudis are supporting the Yemeni government and the U.S. is supporting the Saudis. If this all sounds complicated that's because it is.
What is somber and straightforward is that this war has killed thousands of civilians so far and driven millions from their homes.
Let's talk about it now with Sunjeev Bery from Amnesty International which claims that they have evidence that U.S. or U.S.-designed munitions were used to kill innocent Yemenis. Sanji, thanks for joining us. What is this evidence?
SUNJEEV BERY, ADVOCACY DIRECTOR, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Well, Amnesty International researchers have been on the ground in Yemen in areas where the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition was engaged in indiscriminate bombardment.
Not only have countless Yemini civilians had their lives brought to horrific ends as a result of this bombardment, but Amnesty International has found in the rubble remnants of U.S.-designed or potentially U.S. manufactured bombs like the MK series bombs that have dropped by the Saudi-led coalition.
TAPPER: And the U.S. government or U.S. corporations have culpability for that you think?
BERY: Well, certainly potentially both. The U.S. government has sold to Saudi Arabia some $30 billion worth of arms in the last few years. Even as the latest bombardment was happening, the U.S. government under President Obama authorized another billion dollar-plus worth of bomb sales to the Saudi Arabian government.
TAPPER: And has there been any evidence that the Obama administration has exerted any pressure to try to encourage the Saudis to exercise restraint and end their bombing campaign?
BERY: President Obama and the Obama administration claimed that they are urging the Saudi government to exercise restraint, but at the end of the day, if you have a government engaging in mass indiscriminate bombardment of civilians, declaring an entire city, for example, a military target totally in violation of international law.
And you have that government a billion dollars more in bombs, what's the ultimate signal? It's a terrible signal when it comes to human rights.
TAPPER: Now, about a year and a half ago, before the civil war broke out, Amnesty International and other human rights groups were far more focused on the drone campaign and targeting al Qaeda in Yemen. Al Qaeda and the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP, is obviously the group behind I think the Paris attacks. How much stronger or weaker are they today a year into this conflict?
BERY: The indiscriminate bombardment by the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition and the continuous supply of arms by the U.S. and the U.K. is not only a humanitarian and human rights disaster. It's also dramatically expanded the operational space for al Qaeda in parts of Yemen.
TAPPER: So they are stronger now?
BERY: They are much stronger now. There are news reports emerging that suggested they are taking millions of dollars a day in oil revenues as well as, you know, quite frankly, bank robberies in the region.
TAPPER: Let's talk about Saudi Arabia. It's obviously a problematic ally for the United States in a lot of ways. Not even looking at what is going on in Yemen right now. Saudi Arabia's own human rights record. Tell us about that.
BERY: Right. So Saudi Arabia should not be an ally of the United States militarily not because of the rampant destruction in Yemen through the bombardment, but also because inside the country, armed Saudi Arabian's internal security forces arrest countless people who simply engage in peaceful criticism of the government.
Some of them are advocates for human rights. Some want a constitutional monarchy and others are simply saying they don't want the kinds of restrictions placed on them that this brutal monarchy places and they are getting multi-year sentences in jail as a result.
TAPPER: All right, Sunjeev Bery, thank you so much. Really appreciate it and thanks for the work that you do.
BERY: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
TAPPER: Show us the money. Major changes coming to American currency and it's not just the $20 bill. That's story next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. In the Money Lead now, President Andrew Jackson always hated banks and old hickory would probably be mad at the U.S. Treasury if he were alive today.
That's because the federal government announced that they are booting Jackson off the front of the $20 bill in favor of Harriet Tubman. Tubman will be the first woman to grace paper money in the U.S.
Tubman, the iconic abolitionist who helped hundreds of slaves to find freedom as conductor of the underground railroad. She was also a union spy, nurse, and cook during the Civil War.
Today, former presidential candidate, Dr. Ben Carson, said he disagrees with the decision that there are other ways to honor Harriet Tubman. It's a notable quote since Carson was on the stage when I asked the Republican presidential candidates about this topic last September.
TAPPER: What woman would you like to see on the $10 bill?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a tough one. I think Susan B. Anthony might be a choice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's an easy one. I put my wife on there.
MARCO RUBIO (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Rosa Parks, an everyday American that changed the course of history.
TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I wouldn't change the $10 bill. I'd change the 20. I'd take Jackson off and leave Alexander Hamilton right where he is as one of our founding father. I very much agree with Marco that it should be Rosa Parks.
BEN CARSON (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'd put my mother on there.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'd go with Rosa Parks. I like that.
JEB BUSH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would go with Ronald Reagan's partner, Margaret Thatcher, probably illegal, but what the heck.
[16:55:04]UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd put Clara Bart. She was a great founder of the Red Cross.
CARLY FIORINA (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wouldn't change the $10 or $20 bill. I think honestly it's a gesture. I don't think it helps to change our history.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably not maybe legal, but I would pick Mother Teresa.
GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would pick Abigail Adams on the bill.
TAPPER: All right.
TAPPER: Of course, the critics have called for Jackson to be taken off the $20 entirely given his shameful legacy in this nation's treatment of Native Americans including the infamous trail of tears.
The U.S. Treasury Department also announced today that Alexander Hamilton with a boost from the Broadway success of a musical about his life will get to stay on the 10, though the back of the $10 bill will be changed to honor women who fought for the right of women to vote, including Susan B. Anthony and one Alice Paul.
The back of the new $5 bill will honor the civil rights movement with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt.
The nation's largest health insurer is making its exit from most Obamacare exchanges by the end of next year operating in only a, quote, "handful of states," down from 34th year. United Health Care says it is losing just too much money.
The company says it lost $475 million in the exchanges last year and could face another $500 million loss this year. It's not only a blow to President Obama's signature Affordable Care Act, but it could also mean higher insurance premiums in many states, according to industry estimates. The company has since boosted its financial targets for the year.
Also in our World Lead today, a special visit with U.S. service members, part of the fight against ISIS. President Obama this week boldly declared that the ISIS-controlled city of Mosul in Iraq will be retaken by the end of this year.
In the Persian Gulf, the "USS Harry Truman" plays a key role in anti- ISIS efforts. Planes assigned to the carrier started dropping bombs on September 29th and haven't let up since.
One of our own CNN's Brooke Baldwin spent two days embedded with the U.S. Navy on that aircraft carrier to give us a rare inside look.
I want to bring in the anchor of CNN NEWSROOM, my friend, Brooke Baldwin. Brooke, thanks for joining me.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR, "NEWSROOM": Thanks for having me.
TAPPER: So tell me what was the most striking thing you experienced?
BALDWIN: I mean, I had never done anything like this ever. The landing on an aircraft carrier -- four flights, landing on an aircraft carrier, a hop on a helicopter to go see my oldest, oldest friend from the seventh grade who is now a lieutenant commander and the executive officer on the USS Anzio, this guided missile cruiser.
I think my answer would be two fold. One, think back to when you were in your 20s, Tapper. I'm sure you were very mature, but you know, average age out there among these young men and women on deployment is 27.
And so I think a 22-year-old was driving the "USS Harry Truman" and seeing how mature and disciplined and how willing they are to sacrifice.
I met a young woman who left her 1 1/2-year-old behind at home with her husband because duty called so I think that sense of sacrifice -- I left with a profound appreciation for that.
And, secondly, just the stars. You talk to any sailor who has been deployed for a while and the one thing they tell you they truly miss is looking up at night. Living in the city, living in New York City, you don't see that kind of thing.
That's something everyone said, Brooke, you have to make sure, take a moment, go outside and look up at night.
TAPPER: Sounds incredible. These sailors are living without daily things that we take for granted. What stood out to you the most in terms of what they do without?
BALDWIN: I was talking to them and I said, fellas, keep it clean. Tell me what you miss the most about home and they said resoundingly Wi-Fi. So you know, certainly they keep in touch through Facebook. It's a very slow internet connection for them out in the middle of the Persian Gulf. So they do have armed forces network so they do watch CNN. They definitely said they watch our debates and keep very close tabs on the election.
TAPPER: They are obviously playing a crucial role in the war against ISIS.
TAPPER: Do they sense how important it is, how much the nation and the world in many ways is relying upon them?
BALDWIN: Definitely. I mean, they deploy about two weeks after Paris happened. So they were out there, you know, a thousand miles from Iraq and Syria when Brussels happened and I talked to the senior aviator on the aircraft carrier and she said that only deepened her resolve.
It's frustrating. It's disappointing to see that some of these attacks in the west are successful, given the fact that they have left their families and are trying to -- I saw the F-18s taking off and they are trying as hard as they can on their own mission, but it's tough knowing that they are successful, these terrorists elsewhere.
TAPPER: All right, it sounds like a very important and meaningful trip. Brooke Baldwin, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
BALDWIN: Thanks, Tapper.
TAPPER: Facebook and Twitter @jaketapper, tweet the show @theleadcnn. We read them. Believe it or not.
That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We turn you over to one Wolf Blitzer who is right next door in a place I like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thank you for watching.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, path to victory. Fresh off the big wins in New York, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton turn their attention to the next battleground states. They are closer to locking up their party's nominations and starting to focus in on the general election.