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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

What's Next For Freed Cleveland Captives?; Four Americans Killed in Benghazi: Why?; One Mother's Search For Answers

Aired May 7, 2013 - 16:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

More on our National Lead now. Mercifully, most of us will never know the terror those three women in Cleveland felt during the decade they were kept as prisoners, but there are a few, very few, who have been through similar ordeals and have lived to tell about it. Like, for instance, Jaycee Dugard who was kidnapped in California at age 11 and held captive 18 years until her rescue in 2009.

Dugard is in Washington, D.C. today to receive an award this evening from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Our own Erin McPike is at the hotel where that ceremony will happen. Erin, victims like Jaycee Dugard show that life can move on after something horrific like this.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake. It's just a wild coincidence that this award ceremony is being held tonight, but the CEO of the organization told me this morning that he expects yesterday's rescue to be a very hot topic tonight and that many of the victims will offer their own words of wisdom to the three women who were rescued yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCPIKE: For the families of the three young women who spent a decade in captivity, it's a blessing to have them back.

SYLVIA COLON, AUNT OF GINA DEJESUS (on the phone): She has always believed Gina was live and well. She always believed that. You know, I just want to say what a phenomenal Mother's Day gift she gets this mother's day.

MCPIKE: For the victims, now they can begin to live again.

What is the most important thing a victim can do in the days after they are freed essentially?

JOHN RYAN, NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN: Enjoy their families, enjoy their newfound freedom, and be open to support from experts as they're guided on their journey to healing.

MCPIKE: John Ryan, CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, says each year there are roughly 800,000 new kidnappings. And more are in long-term confinement than people realize.

RYAN: Clearly, there is no formula. There is no textbook on this yet. That book is being written as these cases evolve. And, again, it'll be different for each individual. But the good and positive news is they do get acclimated. They do move on.

MCPIKE: Amanda Berry's new life includes introducing to her friends and family the six-year-old girl who is believed to be her daughter, born while she was missing. Like Jaycee Dugard, who rescued in 2009 along with two daughters she had during the 18 years she was being held. She and her mother described her struggle in this interview with ABC.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I have enough hate in my heart for the both of us. I hate that he took her life away. That makes me sad. I'm sorry, baby. He stole your childhood. He stole your adolescence. He stole high school proms and pictures and memories.

MCPIKE: Other former victims have spoken up and started foundations to sympathize and help. Like Elizabeth Smart, who was taken by a religious fundamentalist but is now married and advocates for children's safety education.

ELIZABETH SMART, KIDNAPPING VICTIM: Not all of them end sad. I am here. Mine was a happy ending, and I know there are many more children out there who have the same happy ending waiting to happen to them.

MCPIKE: And Sean Hornbeck, whose foundation raises awareness.

SHAWN HORNBECK, KIDNAPPING VICTIM: When I was 11 years old I was riding my bike near home and kidnapped by a stranger. I was held captive for four-and-a-half years. If you see something, say something.

MCPIKE: Now Dugard has her own message to pass along in support of the three newly rescued women. "These individuals need the opportunity to heal and connect back into the world. This isn't who they are. It is only what happened to them. The human spirit is incredibly resilient. More than ever this reaffirms we should never give up hope."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCPIKE: Now, Jake, as we have mentioned, because Jaycee Dugard had two children when she was held held captive, she could have the best advice for Amanda Berry who is believed to have a daughter while she was held captive. Jake?

TAPPER: Erin McPike.

When we hear about these stories, it is easy to forget that most news coverage does not show the bigger picture. According to the National Center For Missing Adults, 2,300 Americans are reported missing every day. FBI records show that almost as many men are reported missing as women. But nearly all the faces you'll see on the news are white women and children. And hat shows a very different picture than the statistics, which prove that about half of the missing are black or Hispanic. They may not get equal coverage in the media, but every one of those 2,300 Americans is someone's friend or family member. And they're all just as distraught over their disappearance.

Coming up, the South Carolina special election tonight all come down to one thing, forgiveness? That is what former governor Mark Sanford hopes. Our Politics Lead is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now a little more on the Political Lead. Former (sic) New Jersey governor Chris Christie held a press conference earlier this hour, talking about his weight loss surgery. Let's run a little bit from that press conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I feel great about myself. You know?

(APPLAUSE)

CHRISTIE: But I felt great about myself before. I'll feel great about myself after no matter how it goes. You know, that doesn't -- this has never defined me in my own mind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: He says he did it for his family, not for any possible 2016 presidential run. Let's talk about that with CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, Republican strategist and CNN contributor Ana Navarro, and former Obama White House official and CNN contributor Van Jones.

What are you hearing, Gloria? Did he do this for 2016 at all, even a little bit?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: A little bit. Look. This is about his life. Okay? So running for president may one day be part of his life. But I think you have to believe him when he says he turned 50, this is about his family. This is about his wife. It's about his kids. He said, you confront your own mortality.

And, yes. It's about running for the presidency, because I believe his weight would have been a huge liability and still could be, by the way. But what we also heard from him today is vintage Christie. He made it very clear he is not going to turn this into a self-help crusade for lap bands --

TAPPER: Right.

BORGER: He is done with this. And he is moving on. The downside, according to one of his confidantes is they all know that everybody is going to be watching him -- TAPPER: Sure.

BORGER: -- as he drops the pounds. That is going to become a story in and of itself.

TAPPER: And his weight is a liability. Maybe not with the voters so much as -- you know this from working on campaigns -- you can't be that big and run for president. You will not have the stamina.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN ANALYST: First of all let me just tell you, I think you three are too skinny to be having this conversation.

(LAUGHTER)

NAVARRO: Okay? I'm the only person here counting Weight Watcher Points right now.

TAPPER: Nobody thinks so.

NAVARRO: Look. I've been on two presidential campaigns. You need -- it is a rigorous run through the mill. You know what else? You got to take a lot of propeller planes to get yourself to Ames, Iowa and to get yourself all over New Hampshire. And it is hard to fit in those little seats when you are a big - I mean, I am just talking practicality as somebody who does not have the smallest of bodies to fit in, you know, one of those seats.

TAPPER: Again, I don't know what you're talking about.

NAVARRO: It is hard. But after watching that press conference, at least we know it hasn't affected his personality. The same Chris Christie.

VAN JONES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I think -- I just want to say as a dad, you know, I got some bad news in December about my cholesterol level, about my blood pressure. It's sobering. You look at these little guys at the house, and you say I could not be around here. And I made changes to my life in terms of eating and that kind of stuff.

I do think it is important we take him as a human being, and I like him a lot better as a human being than a politician. So you saw -- the guy you saw today I think was everybody's fantasy to be able to go out there and stick up for yourself and your family and stick it to the press. I think he actually -

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: But I think he put himself very well. I just wished he could do something surgically to change his politics because right now the stuff he is doing in terms of, you know, cutting the education and that kind of stuff I think bothers people a lot.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: But he says this is not who I am, and it's none of your business by the way. When you run for president, it was going to be on his medical records anyway. Everything you do is our business.

TAPPER: Right. He said he was never going to lie about it, but it wasn't going to really volunteer it.

BORGER: Right. And I was told The New York Post got the reporting. They called him up. And he wasn't going to lie about it. This was very closely held to family and a few must-know top aides.

TAPPER: We have to take a second to acknowledge a big House race going on today in South Carolina between the former governor Mark Sanford and a Democrat, Elizabeth Colbert Busch. Our own Jim Acosta caught up with Busch - Colbert-Busch earlier. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes or no, would you have voted yes or no to Manchin-Toomey? On the background checks?

ELIZABETH COLBERT-BUSCH, DEMOCRATIC HOUSE CANDIDATE: Oh, my goodness.

ACOSTA: Manchin-Toomey is the amendment that would have -

COLBERT-BUSCH: For the different gun -- for the background checks. Okay. I am a defender of the Second Amendment, but we should expand background checks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, that is how we talk in Washington. Yes or no on Manchin- Toomey?

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: And we know what that means. Manchin and Toomey are senators. They offered a bill. She obviously didn't have the answer right there. She wasn't exactly sure. Rookie mistake?

JONES: Look. I don't think -- at this late date anybody is going to give her a hard time besides us here in the media.

This is a great race because you have two underdogs. If you like underdogs, and I think everybody likes underdogs in politics, you have two underdogs going against each other. This late date I don't think anybody cares about that little slip. I do think she is slipping in the polls somewhat because she has actually disappointed some of her Democratic base by trying to reach out, by trying to seem a little more conservative right here at the end. I don't think anybody is going to --

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: She knows it's very hard to win as a progressive in South Carolina.

JONES: Fair enough, fair enough.

BORGER: Whoever wins is renting the seat. Because the next --

TAPPER: There is another election come November.

BORGER: You bet.

TAPPER: Thank you so much, Van and Gloria and Ana.

Ahead on THE LEAD, can't Bill Clinton do one public event without getting a question about Hillary Clinton running for president? No. The answer is no. What is the former president saying about his wife's life now and her presidential prospects? That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. In our "World Lead," it's eight months later and we're still searching for complete answers on how four Americans were killed in Benghazi, Libya. Tomorrow, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hear testimony about the events before, during, and after the attack on Americans in Benghazi, Libya on September 11 and 12th, 2012.

Strip away for a second the partisan posturing, conspiracy theories from the right and the attempts to douse the scandal by the left, and the facts and the testimony about what happened at Benghazi. Well, they could -- they should concern any American.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER (voice-over): It is hardly the White House's favorite topic of conversation. The four Americans killed last September in Libya, Ambassador Chris Stevens, Information Officer Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Tyron Woods and Glen Dougherty.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Let's be clear. Benghazi happened a long time ago.

TAPPER: Not that long ago, just eight months in fact, still many outstanding questions from individuals with first-hand knowledge of the events -- career diplomats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question that we would ask is, again, how thin does the ice have to get before someone falls through?

TAPPER: Former regional security officer in Libya, Eric Nordstrom, last October testified about his request for 12 security agents. Why was this denied?

ERIC NORDSTROM, STATE DEPARTMENT FORMER REGIONAL SECURITY OFFICER: You know what makes most frustrating about this assignment is not the hardships. Not the gunfire, not the threats. It's dealing and fighting against the people, programs, and personnel who are supposed to be supporting me. For me, the Taliban is on the inside of the building.

TAPPER: And what about possible military support on the night of the attacks? The Pentagon says the closest fighter planes were too far away with no tanker assets.

LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Time, distance, the lack of an adequate warning, events that moved very quickly on the ground prevented a more immediate response.

TAPPER: Sources tell CNN that Greg Hicks, then the number two diplomat in Libya, will testify tomorrow that after the first attack on the compound in Benghazi, but before the second attack on the CIA annex, four U.S. Special Forces troops in Tripoli discussed reaching Benghazi in a Libyan aircraft.

But the troops were told to stand down, much to the dismay of their commander who, according to Hicks, said I have never been so embarrassed in my life that a State Department officer has bigger balls than somebody in the military.

Now, that flight left an hour after the second attack, so it's not clear it would have made a difference, but it's also unclear why they were told not to go. Hicks says he thought it was a terrorist attack from the get-go. But the White House seemed eager to claim it was a protest of an anti-Muslim video. One that got out of hand.

CARNEY: The unrest we've seen around the region has been in reaction to a video that Muslims, many Muslims find offensive.

TAPPER (on camera): The group around the Benghazi post was well armed, a well coordinated attack. Do you think it was a spontaneous protest against a movie?

CARNEY: Look, this is obviously under investigation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: One woman still looking for answers is Pat Smith. Her son, State Department Information Officer Sean Smith was one of the four Americans killed. Pat, thanks so much for being here. I know this is not an easy time. How are you holding up?

PAT SMITH, MOTHER OF SEAN SMITH, KILLED IN BENGHAZI: Terrible. I cry every night. I don't sleep at night. I need answers.

TAPPER: What do you want answers to? What do you not know?

SMITH: Why was there no security for him? When they were supposed to have security and the security that they did have was called back. It just -- things do not add up and I'm just told lies.

TAPPER: Last week, you heard this in the piece the White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that Benghazi happened a long time ago.

SMITH: Yes, it did.

TAPPER: Eight months ago.

SMITH: Yes.

TAPPER: What is your reaction to that?

SMITH: Why don't they have answers by now? They've had plenty of time to come up with something other than the things they have not told me.

TAPPER: Are you concerned at all that the hearings and Benghazi that has become a political issue, the Republicans have turned it into a political issue. The Democrats have turned it into a political issue as opposed to being a scandal and a tragedy apart from politics?

SMITH: Of course, it's political. That's the way it's been. That's how they're treating it. That's what they're doing with it. They're making it into something that -- why don't they just do their job? They didn't do their job and now they're hiding behind the word political and going from there.

TAPPER: You have expressed disappointment in the past because President Obama, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, all of them came to you, talked to you.

SMITH: Yes.

TAPPER: And then you haven't heard from them. Have you heard from anybody in the Obama administration? Have you gotten any outreach or any answers at all?

SMITH: I got one telephone call from a clerk that was a couple days after it happened. He was reading to me from the time line, which I already had. And that was it. And since then, all they have told me is that I am not part of the immediate family so they don't want to tell me anything.

TAPPER: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified about the Benghazi tragedy shortly before she left office. I want to play a little bit of what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: With all due respect, the fact is, we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: What was your reaction to that?

SMITH: Well, that's what I want to know. Why did it happen? And she is in charge. Why couldn't she do something about it? I blame her.

TAPPER: You blame Secretary of State Clinton.

SMITH: Yes. TAPPER: Why?

SMITH: Because that's her department. She is supposed to be on top of it. Yet she claims she knows nothing. It wasn't told to her. Well, who is running the place?

TAPPER: You came to Washington to attend the American Foreign Service Association's memorial plaque ceremony at the State Department.

SMITH: Yes, I did.

TAPPER: And you'll be attending the hearing tomorrow with Benghazi.

SMITH: Yes, I will.

TAPPER: Are you hopeful you'll get answers tomorrow at the hearing?

SMITH: I'm going to listen to them. I don't know if they can give me answers or not. I want answers. I studied upside down, backwards, inside out and everything I can possibly study on this. And until they can tell me something that I can believe, I don't know if they'll be able to tell me anything. I don't know.

TAPPER: Have you talked to anybody who was a family member of any of the other three Americans killed?

SMITH: No. I talked one time with the ex-wife of the Woods people and that was it.

TAPPER: I guess what I find so amazing. I don't find it surprising that you haven't gotten answers because I haven't either. I've been reporting on this since September, but what I find so surprising is that there hasn't been any outreach other than the clerk. You would think --

SMITH: They don't want to talk to me because they're afraid of what I might say because I might say something like, who is at fault and why are they covering it up? And they are covering it up because I haven't heard any answer. And I don't think Hillary or any one of them want me to be talking the way I am. I don't think so. They're not very happy.

I told them. I told every one of them, personally, nose to nose, just tell me what happened, whisper in my ear if it's classified. And I won't tell anybody, but at least it'll put things to rest for me, but they won't do that. They won't talk to me. The only thing they'll tell me is that I am not a member of the immediate family.

And I don't understand that. Because I still remember the labor pains, which was quite a while ago. I think I'm a member of the immediate family and I think I ought to know. And I think it would be very simple for them to say something. It wouldn't take very much.

TAPPER: Pat, I hope you find answers.

SMITH: I hope so too. TAPPER: Thanks for being here. God bless you.

SMITH: OK.

TAPPER: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: A quick heads up about a one-on-one interview you won't want to miss. Tonight, CNN's own Chris Cuomo interviews Amanda Knox. Can pieces of the puzzle in this bizarre murder-mystery finally fall into place? Watch "Amanda Knox The Unanswered Questions" tonight at 10:00 Eastern.

That's it for me. I'm Jake Tapper. I will now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Jake, thanks very much.