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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Brazil Police: U.S. Swimmers Not Robbed. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired August 18, 2016 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Drew, Mark, Danny, Nick, and everyone else, what a story, this is not the end. Stay with us. You're watching CNN. "THE LEAD" starts now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Thanks, Brook. So how long until this Ryan Lochte guy gets his own reality show? Never mind, he had one. "THE LEAD" starts right now.
Did Olympic swimming icon, Ryan Lochte, just totally make up this story about being robbed in Rio to cover up some shady stuff? Just minutes ago, Brazilian police laid out that case against him and his teammates.
Trump 3.0 now with more Trumpy trumpiness. After weeks of disappointing poll numbers and self-inflicted wounds, are there now signs that Trump still can possibly win this thing?
Plus -- this is what the war in Syria looks like. A little boy, younger than the war itself, covered in blood and ash. Thousands of little kids like him not as lucky. Will this viral image change anything?
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. We're going to begin with our "Sports Lead" today. It's not the kind of Olympic that any American is proud of or cheering while watching.
Minutes ago, Brazilian police laying out the case against four U.S. swimmers saying despite their claims they were never robbed as they describe it.
It all started as a tale told by Olympic gold medal swimmer, Ryan Lochte, bout an armed robbery in Rio of him and three other gold medal winning U.S. swimmers. He said a gun was held to his forehead.
Now this is an international incident and the police say that the athletes could be criminally charged. Brazilian police now accusing the swimmers of deliberately vandalizing a gas station.
A Brazilian newspaper obtaining this video of the athletes exiting an alley way with employees of the gas station following them close behind. Different video then shows the men entering a taxi.
Police say a security guard asks the driver to stay, but the athletes want to leave. Soon after they get out of the cab after being spoken to. Just minutes ago, two of the swimmers, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz began giving statements to Brazilian police. Last night, they were pulled off of a plane by Brazilian police, their passports seized and prevented from leaving the country.
The fourth swimmer, James Fagen, has not given a statement. Ryan Lochte meanwhile already returned to the United States. Police also saying that that night Lochte was intoxicated and angry.
And a security guard at the gas station had his right to pull his weapon on them. That's what the police say. Let's get right to CNN's senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, who is outside the gas station in question. Nick, takes us through the scene there.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It is remarkable, Jake, that we have spent about two days trying to work out exactly what is happening here. A very normal boring gas station about 10 minutes away from the Olympic venues.
Now you may recognize this. Had the flap down early Sunday morning. That is where the CCTV began and now it is the alleyway in which you see them disappear.
The allegation from a police source and in the media is that a poster like this, most likely, was torn off this wall here, and also we're hearing this may be where the alleged urination actually have happened.
Kind an off thing because just a few feet away of actual toilets of the gas station. The doors are damaged, not sure if that relates to what happened on that particular night.
But let me take you back to the front of the gas station and we have not gotten an updated version of events from the four swimmers. They spoke yesterday standing by their story, but they have not come forward again to answer this Brazilian officials' version of events here.
This is the place where they emerged after quite a few staff members wanted to know what the commotion was. They went to a taxi that was parked there and realized it wasn't there and that leads to the confusion of the early hours of the morning, about 6 a.m. on a Sunday.
And they went to a second taxi parked here. The man was approached by a man in black, who we believed is perhaps the security guard who worked here on that shift, not here now, leaned in.
So it may be at some point then, the police chief says they had four angry strangers here breaking the place up. After that, the accommodation was reached in which money was paid, it seems, according to the police chief to calm the situation down.
[06:05:07]The police turned up and didn't see any charges worth pressing. That may explain how convoluted this version of events is coming to public light, but still the Rio police chief quite clear that the individuals are high profile and maybe should apologize to the people of Rio de Janeiro.
But Jake, I have to tell you, standing here at this gas station, you are left wondering why did such an extraordinarily complicated story emerged from Mr. Lochte at the very beginning?
We are not saying at this point necessarily that it doesn't have some veracity to it, but it is completely different from the version offered by Brazilian officials.
It is an extraordinary complicated way of explaining a little vulgar behavior, but maybe a more drunken infraction you might argue from high school days.
It is hard to square exactly how all of this could happen. We're talking about activity of about 10 or 15 minutes here at a gas station somewhere in Rio -- Jake.
TAPPER: Very bizarre. And Nick, police saying that there was a weapon involved and the security guard having every right to use it. I suppose in some way that matches up with some of Ryan Lochte's story.
WALSH: Yes, except that they don't match up in the -- Mr. Lochte didn't omit the fact that they appeared to have damaged part of the station initially. You could perhaps perceived a misinterpretation in this generously very early hours of celebratory Sunday morning.
Maybe you feel someone pointing a gun at you and saying you need to pay for this amounts to some sort of, maybe armed robbery, and maybe the security guard for being the police who later turned up.
But that does require an awful lot of dots being joined together if you try and compare those two versions of events. So I don't think anyone here is saying there can't be a gray middle where everyone is telling some degree of the actual story.
But for right now the Brazilian officials are providing a detailed, lengthy version of what they say happened with CCTV that appears although they choose to release it to back things up.
And Mr. Lochte and the other swimmers who we haven't heard from publicly to defend their situation until since yesterday -- Jake.
TAPPER: Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much, appreciate it. For more, let's bring in Georgetown law professor, Paul Butler, here with me in Washington, and in Rio, we have CNN sports analyst, Christine Brennan.
Paul, first of all, thanks for being here, Professor, as always. What is the likelihood of an extradition of Ryan Lochte, who is of the four, the only one in the United States not stuck in Brazil?
PAUL BUTLER, LAW PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN LAW SCHOOL: So Jake, this case is a big deal because of the Olympics. It's about Brazil's national pride and it summons up stereotypes about the ugly (inaudible) abroad. Just in terms of the criminal law, it is not that serious. They are guilty as the police say, the swimmers are. They are looking at charges of vandalism and filing a police report. If it actually gets to the level of extradition, something has gone terribly wrong.
TAPPER: What is the likelihood do we think of Lochte and when do we think the three swimmers who are in Brazil right now, who had their -- at least two of them have had their passports confiscated. When will they be able to go home?
BUTLER: So it's kind of like a chess game. We've got something Brazil wants. Brazil has some three swimmers who we'd like to have safely back home. So what happens is negotiation.
Extradition is about politics, diplomacy. It's about people getting on the phone and working things out. So I think at the end of the day, what we might expect is for Ryan to accept the sovereignty of Brazil over this matter.
He will either voluntarily go back to Brazil or agree to accept the jurisdiction of the Brazilian court stateside.
TAPPER: Just amazing. Christine, there was a lot of focus on crime in Rio before the games began. Now there is this high profile case that at least right now Brazilian authorities consider to be a complete fabrication. What's the reaction been like there in Rio?
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: You know, Jake, when you think about this. This is now 100 hours in. Think of all of the sporting events that have gone on, all the medals that have been won, and look at what we're talking about.
That is this story and Ryan Lochte needs to tell anything right after it happened that is hijacking the Olympics, it's what is really is.
What if Ryan Lochte, Jake, has just kept his mouth shut and his mom had never said anything. Then you would have had this incident -- we've probably would have never found about it. So there is that piece of it.
I think it is unfortunate, frankly, that as these games move on, a second week has been dominated by this. Obviously, it is all that we are talking about. It's a huge story as the professor mentioned, absolutely. I agree with that.
But I think people are probably rolling their eyes. Ryan Lochte, a 32-year-old, very carefree, social media icon. No surprise that he would be in the middle of something that maybe went awry. But still a stunning event and certainly putting a dumper on these games.
[06:10:07]TAPPER: And Professor, you've talk about how the conflicting stories told by Ryan Lochte might be legally significant. Let's play a couple of those.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN LOCHTE, U.S. SWIMMER: They told the other swimmers to get down on the ground, I refused. I said we didn't do anything wrong, I'm not getting on the ground. The guy pulled out his gun, cocked it, put it to my forehead, and I put my hands up and said whatever.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he talked to me the night he said that's when the guy pointed gun in my direction and cocked it, and I pointedly said to him, you had said before it was placed on your forehead and cocked. He said, no, that's not exactly what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Is there a significance legally that he seemed to be telling two different stories?
BUTLER: Maybe. So anybody who has a gun pointed at their head, it doesn't matter whether it's the police or a guy in the street, it's traumatic. Does that affect your memory? Absolutely. There is a myth that if something traumatic happens you remember everything exactly.
The science tells us it makes you misremember stuff. So the fact that there are different versions is not damming. What is more troubling is the level of the discrepancy and when investigators look at these two rather different stories about what happened and when, that makes them suspicious. It is always the cover up. You know, that is what the story is really about.
TAPPER: True in Washington, D.C., and true in Rio. It's not the crime, it's the cover up. Christine, what kind of consequences could Lochte face from the U.S. Olympic Committee or from the International Olympic Committee, or from USA swimming?
BRENNAN: Well, USA swimming is probably the most likely because it is the national governing body, Jake, for the sport and will be in charge of Lochte.
Going back to 1988 in Seoul, there were two swimmers who stole a mask from a hotel lobby and they were banned for 18 months. Michael Phelps, the marijuana pipe picture that was a three-month ban, for the dui that was a six-month ban.
USA swimming takes this stuff very seriously. I'm not sure if Ryan Lochte would ever come back and swim anyway, but there is a life for these athletes as Olympic, a long career of showings up at events.
I'm wondering if his sponsors want to be anywhere near him anymore. I can't imagine that they are happy and I'm going to expect that this will be a ban of some length, if not a lifetime ban for Ryan Lochte for this utter embarrassment. No matter what all of the fact end up being, just an utter embarrassment with the way he's handled himself here in Rio.
TAPPER: All right, Christine Brennan, Professor Paul Butler, stay with us. We have more to get to while his three teammates are trapped basically in Brazil talking to Rio police. Ryan Lochte back in the United States. This is not the first time he has gotten in trouble with the law. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[16:17:09] TAPPER: Welcome back.
We're back with the fast developing details in the sports lead. Swimmer Ryan Lochte backed on U.S. soil as his three Olympic teammates faced an international upheaval in Rio de Janeiro. Brazilian authorities want to question Lochte on what they say was a complete lie about a robbery that he claimed to have gone through. Investigators also say the gold medalist could face vandalism charges for damage to a gas station bathroom down in Rio.
CNN's Martin Savidge just arrived in Lochte's hometown of Charlotte.
Martin, has anyone seen or heard from Ryan Lochte down there?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There have been a couple different sightings when it comes to Ryan Lochte. First, on social media there is a posting of a photograph of him. He was seen apparently Wednesday morning at the airport here. So, it is apparent he took an overnight flight from Rio and then would have flown from Tuesday into Wednesday.
He lives in this neighborhood. It's a gated community here and the neighbors we talk to, well, they give you varying accounts. Some don't want to talk at all. But there's at least one woman who says that since the arrival, she has seen his car. His car is unmistakable, we're talking a black Rolls Royce. However, she says it wasn't clear if he was seen in the car at the time.
The other thing we know we knocked on the door and didn't get an answer. And so, the only time he's physically been seen by the neighbors here was just before the Olympics. About two weeks ago, he was out walking his dogs. They say he's lived about six to eight months in this community. That is as much as we know. There is a lot of explaining people want him to do.
We're starting by to hear his story, as yet he hasn't surfaced here -- Jake.
TAPPER: And, Martin, Lochte, this is not his first scrape with the law?
SAVIDGE: No, I mean, he is not a hardened criminal by any means, but, you know, he has had a couple of run-ins in the past that are sort of in keeping with what we're hearing coming out of Rio. In 2005, he was arrested for a charge of disorderly conduct. He was also for trespassing and public urination. Actually, the disorderly conduct was in 2010.
So, he's had a couple of minor run-ins with the law. But it sounds eerily kind of reminiscent to what we're hearing coming out of the situation down there in Rio. Again, it doesn't mean that his story isn't true. It just kind of fits a pattern in the minds of some -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Martin Savidge, thank you so much. Coming up next, Speedo, Gatorade, Gillette, others have all used Ryan Lochte as their poster boy. But will Ryan's Lochte apparent lie hurt him where it would most count? His wallet. Stay with us.
[16:24:16] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Breaking news today in our sports lead of all places. Brazilian police saying U.S. Olympic swimmers who claimed they were mugged at gunpoint were not telling the truth. They weren't robbed at all, police say.
Joining me now is Leigh Steinberg. He's a sports agent and an attorney.
First of all, Mr. Steinberg, you have represented Olympic athletes before. I cannot imagine the pressure of an international stage.
LEIGH STEINBERG, SPORTS AGENT AND ATTORNEY: First of all, the Olympics have reporters from all over the world. It's the biggest stage for marketing there is, and now you have a whole country that feels its honor has been besmirched who are going to push this issue to the very end.
[16:25:02] So, it's not going away, and this will play out until there is some resolution.
TAPPER: Assuming that -- and we don't know the truth. We don't know the details. We don't exactly what happened. But assuming that law enforcement as the facts on their side, and one assumes that they would, although certainly we've seen cases where they didn't, what would you recommend if Ryan Lochte came to you and said what do I do, sir? How do I keep my reputation? How do I make this end? What would you say to him?
STEINBERG: Well, Ryan Lochte has seven major endorsements totaling almost $6.2 million. And he would have more based on his performance. The key to damage control here, Jake, is that he put his arms around all of the facts, notwithstanding whether he lied or not about his point of view, and get out quickly. Apologize if it wasn't true. Make amends to all the constituencies of Brazilian people, their police force, his fellow athletes in the Olympics, the American people. Make amends, talk about something he could do to make it up to the Brazilians and then talk about steps to prevent a recurrent. So, if they were drunk, this is not something he's going to do again.
If he doesn't get out quickly, the repetitive news cycle will show the same facts over and other again and makes it harder to ever recover. And so, people will see this so much they will associate it with him, that this is how he acts all of the time, 24/7. The American people have a great capacity to forgive if someone who's repentant and looks like they're on a different track. Otherwise, this will follow him for a long, long time, and we'll be associated with his brand.
TAPPER: I want to bring in Christine Brennan and Paul Butler into the conversation.
Christine, Michael Phelps, he pleaded guilty to a DUI arrest. He was shown, as you mentioned, with a bong, a marijuana bong. He went to rehab and he has a comeback story.
Do you think that potentially Ryan Lochte and these other swimmers are capable of the same?
BRENNAN: Certainly, the younger swimmers, we don't know yet if some of them maybe really didn't -- weren't as involved and they're young and they have a shot of coming back, absolutely. A good friend, Leigh, knows this business as well as anyone and I think you make a great point, Leigh, in the sense of getting out quickly.
As I said earlier, Jake, we're already 100 hours into this. Basically, we have gobbled up a full week of the Olympics with this story and Ryan Lochte is 32. The other -- he did not have a great Olympics anyway. That he's not going to be coming back for the next Olympics.
So, my sense with him is that the clock is ticking to Leigh's point. And he is missing valuable time. And an apology of the highest order in my humble opinion is owed to lots of people, especially not only the Brazilians of course, but the U.S. Olympic Committee and all of the athletes he took away the spotlight from because he decided to tell a story that wasn't entirely true.
And so, I'm not so sure how he recovers from this because Olympians, we do hold to a higher standard, and I think we should and I think Ryan Lochte has signed into that. He understands the bar is much higher for him than it is for an NFL player and I think that's why he's in big trouble today.
TAPPER: And Professor Paul Butler, how do you see this ending from a legal standpoint?
BUTLER: So, the police from Brazil will put his three swimming partners in a room and they say, look, your boy Ryan, he's in Charlotte driving around in his black Rolls Royce. You tell us what really happened and that is your key to the jail cell. So, that's one way they'll try to figure out what really went down.
An apology would go a long way. If Ryan would do that, you know, there is a myth that if you're under criminal investigation in another country, the United States brings their resources to get you out of jail -- that does not happen. They look at the case, they say, is this a guy who needs to be taught a lesson, brought him down a peg?
If that's what they think, again, thinking about his previous case, those charges and other instances of vandalism, they might let them kind of swing out there for a little while. At the end of the day, this isn't a big deal. You now, it's part of the way we're thinking about the Olympics. It's definitely damaged his brand permanently. Again, this isn't -- it's not the crime of the century.
TAPPER: And super agent Leigh Steinberg, let me bring you back because Christine touched on something I think is something very resonant in Rio right now. We're talking about this instead of the achievements by so many great athletes, American athletes and otherwise. I can't imagine how angry his fellow athletes must be right now.