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Gun Control Filibuster Blocked; Interview with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin; Interview with Defense Department Spokesman George Little; Jay-Z's "Open Letter" to Congress

Aired April 11, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: If you're in Alabama, it might be time to find the most secure room around you. I'm Jake Tapper, and this is THE LEAD.

The national lead, happening as we speak, a deadly tornado outbreak in the Southeast, homes smashed to splinters, at least one person dead, and the danger is far from over.

In other national news, the argument about whether or not to start the argument is over. Senate Democrats joined by a chunk of Republicans blocked the filibuster on gun control today and now the real debate begins. In just moments, we will be joined by West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin here in the studio. He will talk about his bipartisan plan for background checks that has gun groups up in arms.

The world lead. North Korea pulls the equivalent of a pump-fake with one of its missiles, raising it to a firing position, then tucking it right back into the launcher. If it's our attention they want, they have got it.

Good afternoon.

The national lead, breaking news. A killer storm system is raking across the Southeast at this hour. Already, it has left at least one person dead in Mississippi and many more are in harm's way.

Tornadoes have plucked trees out of the ground as if they were dandelions, peeling the roofs off of homes in just a matter of seconds.


TAPPER: The grief of the Sandy Hook parents and families, it is clearly difficult to bear for them. And when you meet them, it is sad beyond measure, and that sadness can be contagious.

Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, was noticeably moved by the Sandy Hook families he met yesterday afternoon, just hours after unveiling a bipartisan bill alongside Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Toomey that would extend background checks to guns bought online and at gun shows.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I'm a parent. I'm a grandparent.

I just can't imagine. Let's all share. I can't imagine, just -- I can do something. I can do something.


TAPPER: The senator joins me now. I know what that's like. I went to Newtown with President Obama. I was in the room. We have had one of the Sandy Hook parents here on the show. It is overwhelming.

MANCHIN: It's overwhelming.

You know, and when you look at the bill and you look at the people, I don't know how they have the strength they do. I look at them just with amazement. If I was one of those parents or grandparent and something that horrific happened, what would you -- what state of mind would you be in?

They came in. They said, listen, we come from a gun culture like West Virginia. We don't want to take anybody's guns away. We don't want to repeal the Second Amendment. We're just asking, can you keep the guns out of the people's hands that shouldn't have guns, Jake, a simple background check on criminal and mental background check? And that's all we have done.

TAPPER: Now, to that point, the NRA response to your plan -- and you have had a good relationship with the NRA in the past...

MANCHIN: Still do.

TAPPER: ... although they're not supporting this bill. But the NRA responds to your plan was -- quote -- "The sad truth is that no background check would have prevented the tragedies in Newtown, Aurora, or Tucson."

That seems to be factually correct. No?

MANCHIN: Well, the bottom line, if they're saying 20 percent to 40 percent of the guns are being transferred at gun shows, I don't know what the figure is, but I have heard it's quite large -- or online -- and if the states haven't done their job -- and the NRA has been absolutely dead accurate on that -- the states have not.

The DOJ has not basically made sure the NICS records were up to snuff.


TAPPER: Those are the background checks.

MANCHIN: Background check.

Just in our state, we have had a horrible incident. The thing that I find so offensive is you have Gun Owners of America putting out just downright, outright lies. TAPPER: They said see a shrink.


TAPPER: What are they calling that?

MANCHIN: They just don't want to...


TAPPER: That's a different one.

MANCHIN: Yes. But..

TAPPER: They say that if you're a gun owner and you see a psychiatrist, the psychiatrist can take your gun away. That's not true?

MANCHIN: That's crazy. They're crazy. It's not true. And the bottom line, they're saying that I...

MANCHIN: See a shrink, lose a gun, that is what...


MANCHIN: Yes. I think they're doing it for fund-raising. They must be doing it as a fund-raising campaign.

TAPPER: But it's not accurate?

MANCHIN: Nothing is accurate in that.

The bill -- go online, Just go online, The bill is there.

TAPPER: You are famously a gun owner.


TAPPER: We saw it in one of your ads when you ran for Senate. Let's show a little clip from that. You were taking a shot literally at environmental regulations.

But it's a twofer basically. You're against the environmental regulations and also showing that you know how to handle a rifle. But there are a lot of gun owners that I have heard from who -- and there must be many in your state, West Virginia, where gun ownership is a proud tradition -- who are afraid that this bill will keep people who are allowed to have guns from having them and will create a national registry and then people will ultimately come and take their guns.

MANCHIN: For the first time in 10, 20 years, we have expanded and protected law-abiding gun owners like myself's rights.

I have been a lifetime member of the NRA. I have been a proud gun owner. I have a tradition of gun culture in my life and my family. And it's something that I'm going to protect. The bottom line is, is that there's been some areas that we were able to clear up in this bill no one wants to look at.

And you have Gun Owners of America telling outright lies. They don't want the people to see the truth. What we're saying is, if you go to a gun store today, Jake, you have to do a background check and that gun owner keeps that record. And that's the only person.

It's against the law to have a registry or anyone to use that to try to register. We have doubled down on that and even made it a felony with a 15-year jail sentence if anybody, any government agency would try to form a registry off of that.

We did that and basically we go to the gun show. If you go to a gun show today and you go to a dealer, a licensed dealer, they do the background check at a gun show. You might go over to the next state, well, nothing is done. We're treating everybody the same.

TAPPER: Same. Making it uniform.

Let's talk about the politics of this. Will you be able to have 60 votes?

MANCHIN: I sure hope so. And we're working awful hard.

There are so many good people. And I understand, because of all the untruths out there and people are doing it to commercialize it. Just put the facts out.

TAPPER: But you don't think as -- as of right now, no, but maybe...

MANCHIN: No, no. Well, we got 68 votes today.

TAPPER: To have a debate.

MANCHIN: Sixty-eight votes, right. And people can argue I voted just to have the debate.


MANCHIN: But when you have a piece of legislation, when you have the Sandy Hook parents coming in, they could have said this doesn't go far enough.

TAPPER: Some are. Some are saying that.

MANCHIN: Yes. They could be saying that. But, basically, really to a T., they support a positive movement.

We did not leave loopholes in the gun show. We did not leave loopholes in the Internet. We didn't infringe on any individual's rights. We didn't infringe on any law-abiding gun owner's rights. We have clarified. This has been a legislation, a legislative process where all sides have been involved.

When you talk about Pat Toomey coming and Mark Kirk has been with me, Chuck Schumer moving from where his bill, which we said, Chuck, we can't support that.

TAPPER: Right.

MANCHIN: Coming over and still working and moving with us.

Just look at the protections we have put in for law-abiding gun owners which they never thought they'd be able to do.

TAPPER: We will have you back again and you will talk more as this proceeds through the Senate.


TAPPER: Thank you so much, Senator. Appreciate it.

MANCHIN: Appreciate it.

TAPPER: He saved the lives of countless fellow G.I.s during the Korean War, all without carrying a gun. Today, 62 years after Army Chaplain Emil Kapaun died in a POW camp, President Obama awarded him the highest honor in the land.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: His fellow soldiers who felt his grace and his mercy called him a saint, a blessing from God. Today, we bestow another title on him, recipient of our nation's highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor.


TAPPER: Chaplain Kapaun ran out into enemy fire to drag the injured to safety. And when he ended up in a POW camp, he would risk his life to steal food for other prisoners. The holy man did not survive his captivity, dying in 1951 at the age of 35.

Next in our world lead, we might be moments away from a war, if you believe North Korean state media, so what exactly is Kim Jong-un trying to prove? And is the Pentagon worried?

Plus, in our pop lead, a boy from the hood done turned Havana into Atlanta. Jay-Z is rapping about his trip to Cuba much better than I just did and says he went right to the president himself for permission. But the White House tells a different story.


TAPPER: The world lead. Another day, another verbal threat from North Korea. This time, it came with a flex of muscle.

A U.S. official told CNN a Musudan missile had been briefly raised into the firing position, but has been tucked back into its launcher all while the North Korean state media says that -- quote -- "War can break out any moment."

Meanwhile, President Obama just said in a meeting with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that North Korea needs to end its belligerent approach.

This feels like an endless game of chicken. Will they or they won't? And what does Kim Jong-un want?

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper gave his theory during congressional testimony this morning.


LT. GEN. JAMES CLAPPER (RET.), NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: I don't think, really, he has much of an endgame, other than to somehow elicit recognition from the world and, specifically, most importantly, the United States, of North Korea's arrival on the international scene as a nuclear power.


TAPPER: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was also on the Hill today and talked about North Korea.

Look to the right of Secretary Hagel over his left shoulder. That is George Little, chief spokesman for the Defense Department.

And George joins me now from the Pentagon.


JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I don't think, really, he has much of an end game, other than to somehow elicit recognition from the world and, specifically, most importantly the United States, of North Korea's arrival on an international scene as a nuclear power.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was also on the Hill today and talked about North Korea.

Look to the right of Secretary Hagel, over his left shoulder. That's George Little, chief spokesman for the Defense Department.

And George joins me now from the Pentagon.

George, welcome.

You heard President Obama just a few moments ago in a meeting with Ban Ki-moon, said North Korea needs to stop its belligerent approach. The temperature needs to be lowered. There was an expression of desire that China get more involved.

China's foreign minister is warning North Korea, saying they do not allow troublemaking at the door steps of China.

Is that enough? Do we need more from China? Do they need to get even more involved than they are right now?

GEORGE LITTLE, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: I think we've heard a number of expressions from Chinese officials that they are very concerned about North Korean behavior. We welcome the Chinese statements. The Chinese, we, the South Korean, the Japanese, a number of countries in the region and beyond are very concerned about what North Korea is doing.

TAPPER: Would you welcome more? Would you like China to do more than it's doing right now?

LITTLE: I think they have been very strong in their statements and we look forward to their continued engagement on this very important issue, Jake.

TAPPER: So, George, I want to ask you. We've heard whispers of a Sea-Based X-Band Radar system being sent to the Pacific. This is significant because it is part of our missile defense systems to prepare for a possible North Korean missile launch.

Can you confirm this?

LITTLE: I can, Jake. We do have an SBX system that is part of our missile defense and tracking system deployed to the central Pacific. I can't tell you precisely where it is because I wouldn't want to put our very sophisticated radar on North Korean radar.

We jokingly call this the floating golf ball and it's a long-range golf ball. I can tell you that.

It's a very important part of our missile defense architecture and it is intended to help counter our -- missile threats in the region.

TAPPER: George, hold on one second. I want to play this sound from President Obama.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- approach that they've been taking and to try to lower temperatures. Nobody wants to see a conflict on the Korean peninsula. But it's important for North Korea, like every other country in the world, to observe the basic rules and norms set forth including a wide variety of U.N. resolutions that have passed. And we will continue to try to work to resolve some of those issues diplomatically even as I indicated to the secretary general that the United States will take all necessary steps to protect its people and to meet our obligations under our alliances in the region.

We talked about Middle East peace where there is -- (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, George, we'll let President Obama continue talking. I want to ask you, George, you were at the hearing with Secretary Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey. I want to play something that Congressman Doug Lamborn asked General Dempsey, citing a report from the Defense Intelligence Agency about North Korea's capabilities.


REP. DOUG LAMBORN (R), COLORADO: DIA assesses says with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles. However, the reliability will be low.


TAPPER: So North Korea has nuclear missiles and they might be unreliable. But DIA assesses that North Korea has nuclear missiles they could fire that could hit Guam or Japan. Is that what I'm to take from that?

LITTLE: Jake, I think you can understand that I can't get into classified intelligence assessments.

But we are very concerned about North Korea's growing missile capabilities. They've demonstrated their willingness to invest in missile technologies in violation of their international obligations. And we do think that over time, they might develop greater capabilities and that's why we've put 14 new ground-based interceptors in Alaska for instance. It's a direct response to the North Korean threat.

TAPPER: That conclusion the congressman was reading, that was unclassified. So, surely, you could elaborate on that, that the North Koreans have missiles with nuclear capability, even though they might be all that reliable.

LITTLE: Well, the conclusion, in fact, may be unclassified, but the underlying content is definitely classified.

TAPPER: All right. One other question about the North Korean missiles. If this missile launch happens but is not aimed at any specific target, it's aimed in the middle of the ocean, would the U.S. try to shut down the missile?

LITTLE: We are prepared to respond to any missile threat. I'm not going to speculate as to what we may or may not do. We do believe the North Koreans should do the right thing and not launch a missile. We wouldn't be surprised if they did and we're ready to do so, we're ready respond if they do.

What our response will or won't be I'm not prepared to say, but they should stand down. And I agree with the president entirely, they need to take the temperature down overall.

TAPPER: All right. George Little at the Pentagon, thank you so much.

LITTLE: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: In our "Pop Lead", Kevin Bacon, how could you? What rookie mistake did the actor make that has him apologizing on vine?

Plus --


TAPPER: Coming up next on THE LEAD, the success of vine. What's vine? Stay tuned.



TAPPER: The "Pop Culture Lead". He survived the East Coast/West Coast rap battle, so you better believe Jay-Z is ready to take on Congress. The hip hop mogul released a track going after critics who bashed him and his wife Beyonce and their recent trip to Cuba.

Two lawmakers called for an investigation into the trip since Americans are forbidden from visiting Cuba unless it's for business or education. According to the Web site Global Grind, Jay-Z noticed the backlash had become the number one story on So, he recorded a response called "Open Letter."

Here's a snippet.


JAY-Z, RAPPER (singing): I done turned Havana to Atlanta, Guayabera shirts and bandanas. Politicians never did (EXPLETIVE DELETED) for me, except lie to me, distort history. Wanna give me jail time and a fine. Fine, let me commit a real crime. I'm in Cuba, I love Cubans. This communist talk is so confusing. When it's from China, the very mic that I'm using (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Idiot wind, the Bob Dylan of rap music --


TAPPER: White House spokesperson Jay Carney was asked about the line in the song where Jay-Z suggests he got permission from President Obama himself. Carney denied it and managed to sneak in a swipe at the rapper's rhyming skills.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I guess nothing rhymes with Treasury. Because Treasury offers and gives licenses for travel as you know and the White House has nothing to do with it.


TAPPER: Jay Carney apparently having learned no lessons from the Biggie/2Pac debacle.

The Treasury Department has already provided documents showing Beyonce and Jay-Z's trip was approved in advance by the Treasury Department.

#tag you're it. So, Jay Carney says nothing rhymes with Treasury. That sounds like a Twitter challenge to me. Show us your rhyming skills. Let's see, using Beyonce's nickname bee how about got cleared from treasury we can travel at your leisure bee.

Hit us @TheLeadCNN. Use the #treasuryrap.

No plot twist is safe anymore. Forget your blabber mouth friends. Stars of the actual shows are ruining it now. Kevin Bacon had to apologize to fans of his show with the following for retweeting a post that spoiled a critical story line before many fans had a chance to catch up. Here's six seconds of Kevin Bacon saying, sorry, in a clip he posted on Vine.


KEVIN BACON, ACTOR: My bad. My bad. My bad.


TAPPER: The episode has not even aired outside the U.S. yet. Let's check in with our political panel in the green room featuring Hilary Rosen, Michael Scherer and Rachel Campos, who you might remember as a cast member of the "Real World San Francisco", in addition to being a commentator now.

Stick around to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real here on THE LEAD.

Rachel, any of that sound familiar?

Our "Politics Lead" is coming up. Mitch McConnell's mole gets nabbed. That's straight ahead.