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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

IRS: We Made Mistakes; White House: Talking Points Not Heavily Edited; Blame Flies Over Benghazi Attack; Interview with Cleveland Deputy Chief of Police Ed Tomba; "I am Alive, Rescue Me!"

Aired May 10, 2013 - 16:00   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The White House facing some tough questions.

I'm Jake Tapper and this is THE LEAD.

The "National Lead," Michelle Knight in Cleveland is now free to come and go as she pleases after she was released from the hospital this afternoon. But questions are swirling about why police took her name off the FBI data base way back in 2003.

The "Politics Lead," originally the Obama administration talking points on the terrorist attack at Benghazi reportedly mentioned warning signs and al Qaeda, 12 revisions later, poof, vanished. Now the White House and the State Department have even more explaining to do.

And the "World Lead," trapped for 16 days in the debris of a building collapse that killed 1,000 people, but today an amazing story of survival among the rubble in Bangladesh.

Good afternoon. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We'll begin, of course, with the "Politics Lead," debt and taxes. They're supposed to be a certain thing for everyone, but some conservative groups had to worry about more than just filing stacks of 990s every April 15th and they claim it comes down to their political views.

In a statement the IRS admitted today that it made mistakes in dealing with Tea Party organizations seeking tax-exempt status, but the IRS denies the group's political affiliations had anything to do with the delays.

The mea culpa comes after some conservatives complained about the taxmen holding up their paperwork. The White House just a few moments ago called it inappropriate and the IRS says they have since fixed the problem. Here to talk about it is our own Erin McPike. Erin, what's going on here?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, I'm sure your Blackberry is filling up just as mine is this afternoon with statement after statement from Republican leader on Capitol Hill calling for an investigation. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader earlier today called these practices thuggish.

And I just got in a statement from House Speaker John Boehner who said the admission by the Obama administration that the Internal Revenue Service targeted political opponents echoes some of the most shameful abuses of government power in 20th Century American history.

So, Jake, of course, Republicans very upset about this calling for an investigation and as you mentioned, Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, just earlier within the last hour or so said that he agrees. He said it was inappropriate, an inappropriate action we would like to see investigated.

We don't know when the report will actually come out that goes through what the IRS did but the IRS is already backpedalling today and it is beginning to look like a public relations disaster for the administration right now -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Erin McPike, thank you so much. After some emotional and eye-opening testimony this week from career diplomats on Capitol Hill about those terrorist attacks at the American diplomatic post in Benghazi, some potentially damaging news on the White House and Obama administration's editing of the talking points about the attack came today.

The talking points were intended for members of Congress in one of the 12 drafts. It stated that, quote, "Since April, 2012, the agency, meaning the CIA, has produced numerous pieces on the threat of extremists linked to al Qaeda in Benghazi in Eastern Libya. These noted that since April there have been five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi by unidentified assailants including the June attacks against the British ambassador's convoy. That was in the talking points.

But as seen in e-mail excerpts obtained by CNN's State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland wrote to administration colleagues that, quote, "That point could be abused to beat the State Department for not paying attention to agency, CIA, warnings. So why do we want to feed that?

The paragraph was removed. Just minutes ago in the briefing room, White House Spokesman Jay Carney faced a barrage of questions about the e-mails, which we should note were first reported by "The Weekly Standard" and then ABC News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: First of all, the CIA was the agency that made changes to the edits -- I mean, to the talking points and didn't produce the talking points first of all. Second of all, I think the overriding concern of everyone involved in that circumstance is always to make sure that we're not giving to those who speak in public about these issues information that is -- cannot be confirmed, speculation about who was responsible, other things like warnings that may or may not be relevant to what we ultimately learn about what happened and why.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: This comes after Gregory Hicks, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Libya during the Benghazi attack told investigators that he thought the Benghazi siege was a terrorist attack from the get-go. Hicks was one of three diplomats who testified in front of the House Committee on Wednesday.

The administration says all of the accusations are just political hit pieces, but grieving family members such as Pat Smith, mother of Sean Smith who was killed at Benghazi, have no horse in the race and they have now gone eight agonizing months without answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: I wish you had gotten answers.

PAT SMITH, SEAN SMITH'S MOTHER: So do I. I begged for answers. When I was there at the casket ceremony, Obama and Hillary and Biden and Panetta and several more said that they would check into it and let me know. Not one of them has called me -- none. They don't care. I'm not important to them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: House Speaker John Boehner now wants President Obama to release e-mails that Boehner says show how the White House tried to change the story on what happened in Benghazi.

We asked the White House today to provide someone to answer our questions on this issue, but they declined.

CNN also asked the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, but he also declined.

I want to welcome Congressman Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio who's a member of the House Oversight Committee.

Congressman, thanks for being here.

You heard Jay Carney earlier today talking about this issue.

REP. JIM JORDAN, R-OHIO: I did.

TAPPER: What is your response?

What do you think about these talking points?

JORDAN: Twelve different edits. You don't need to edit the truth, Jake. Twelve different times, they changed this. You know, I was thinking, I went through a few different edits, too, when I was going to propose to my wife, but it was a lot less than 12. You do not need -- if you're going to give the truth, you do not need to go through this kind of process.

We just want to get to the truth. And the one thing the committee hearing, I think, proved, without a shadow of a doubt, this week, is they knew the truth. They didn't have Mrs. Rice go out and say the truth. She said something different.

It -- as Congressman Gowdy said, demonstrably false statements that she made on five different shows five days after these attacks, that was proven without a doubt, in the committee hearing this past week. And so we do need to have happen what Speaker Boehner and Mr. McConnell requested. Let's get the documents so we can all see -- so the American people can see.

And, again, I love what -- what Congressman Gowdy said, there is no statute of limitations on the truth. Let's get to the truth.

TAPPER: So, Congressman, the White House response and the State Department's response is, this is not, uh, the -- these e-mails are not what they're talking about now, eight months after the attacks, this was in the days after the attacks and they were trying to get information from the CIA, the State Department, the Pentagon, the White House, the National Security Council, get everyone on the same page. In their explanation, this was not about obscuring the truth, it was just about sharing information that they knew definitively.

Your response?

JORDAN: Well, then let us see it.

What's wrong -- again, let us see it. We want to get to the truth. What we do know in questioning that came out in this Wednesday's hearing is the e-mail that had Miss. Nuland, Miss. Mills, as -- as copies to that e-mail, what we do know -- and that e-mail is the day after Beth Jones refers to talking to people in Libya, that it was a terrorist attack. Mr. Gowdy made that clear in the hearings.

So if they want to -- they can say whatever they want, just show us the documents. Let us have the documents, like we're supposed to have when we're conducting a Congressional investigation. This is the Oversight Committee. Stop impeding the investigation.

And, frankly, remember, this goes back to October, when Congressman Chaffetz went to Libya and they, for the first time under -- Mr. Hicks testified -- the first time every the State Department sent a lawyer and they instructed Mr. Hicks, do not talk with Congressman Chaffetz unless this lawyer is present.

And I asked Mr. Hicks under oath, on the witness stand, has that ever happened, in your 22 years of service to this country, in several diplomatic posts around the world, have you ever had that kind of order?

And he said never. The first and only time.

So stop trying to keep us from getting to the truth. Just give us the information. Let's have the hearings and let's let the American people find out what exactly happened.

TAPPER: How do you respond to criticisms from Democrats on the committee that, A, the committee -- Republicans on the committee were not as interested in attacks on diplomatic posts that happened during the Bush administration. There were at least 64 of them during the Bush administration.

And, B, that House Republicans voted to cut funding for diplomatic concern -- diplomatic security and...

JORDAN: Charlene...

TAPPER: -- both -- go ahead.

JORDAN: Charlene Lamb testified at the October 12th hearing, the hearing the Oversight Committee had last -- last year. She testified this was not about resources, this was -- the fact that Eric Nordstrom repeatedly asked for additional security personnel to be in Libya was not only denied additional help, but they had -- what they had was -- was reduced, had nothing to do with resources, according to Charlene Lamb's testimony in front of the committee last October.

So the best evidence is the testimony we've received from the people who made the decisions. That's what Charlene Lamb said to this resources question that the other party wants to raise.

TAPPER: And, Congressman, lastly, you and House Oversight Committee Chairman Issa say you're going to hold responsible officials accountable for the IRS inquiries into certain 501(c)(4) groups, many of them Tea Party groups.

What does that mean?

What do you and Congressman Issa plan to do?

JORDAN: The same thing, have hearings, get to the truth. Now, think about this, we -- we -- staff at the Oversight Committee have talked to the inspector-general's office. This was over two years looking for key words, looking for Tea Party, looking for 912, systematically targeting conservative leaning groups. Your government doing that to you as an American citizen exercising your First Amendment rights to be involved in groups that you want to be involved in, that is unconscionable.

And it went on for a couple of years. And systematically using those words to find people. And let's remember, this is not just some low level staffer at the IRS in Cincinnati's office. This is the -- Tea Party groups around the country were targeted. We had complaints from everyone. And that's why Congressman Issa and I sent the letter. And that's why next -- next week, you'll get the report from the inspector-general.

TAPPER: All right, Congressman Jim Jordan, we have to leave it there.

We're about to lose the satellite.

Thanks so much.

Have a good weekend.

JORDAN: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up, Michelle Knight, one of the three women rescued from the house of horrors in Cleveland is finally home. We'll have the latest on the investigation. And an amazing survival story, a young woman trapped beneath a pile of rubble for 16 days rescued somehow alive. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us to explain how on earth that is possible.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Today's "National Lead", she was the last of the victims still receiving medical attention after the rescue at the Cleveland home that had been her prison for more than a decade. But now, Michelle Knight is out of the hospital and on to better things. Knight was the first woman kidnapped and she may have suffered the worst of it. We should say she was a girl when she was kidnapped. Now she is a woman.

Knight told police she was impregnated at least five times while in captivity but, according to Knight, Ariel Castro starved her and punched her in the stomach until she miscarried. Knight was freed on Monday, along with fellow captives Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus. A police source tells CNN that Castro ordered Knight to deliver Berry's baby in captivity and threatened to kill her if the baby died.

Now, DNA tests confirm that Castro is the father of Berry's daughter, according to the Ohio attorney general's office. That girl is now 6 years old. She can be seen in this photograph with Berry in a hospital bed shortly after they escaped.

Ariel Castro is charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape. The prosecutor also wants to indict him for aggravated murder for the alleged brutal terminations of Knight's pregnancies.

Cleveland police say they took Michelle Knight's name off the FBI's National Crime Information Center Database in November, 2003, when they could not find a parent or guardian to confirm she was still missing.

Police say that's standard procedure but they also claim they were still checking up on the case as recently as November of last year. This has caused something of a controversy in Cleveland.

I want to bring in Cleveland's deputy chief of police, Ed Tomba.

Deputy Chief Tomba, thanks so much for joining us.

ED TOMBA, CLEVELAND DEPUTY CHIEF OF POLICE: Sure. Thank you.

TAPPER: Sir, can you explain the decision to remove Michelle Knight from that FBI database?

TOMBA: That was a policy decision made earlier. Since then, our policies have changed. They've been updated and that would no longer happen but since we could not contact a family member for verification and the results are for age, she was taken out of that database.

TAPPER: According to "The Cleveland Plain Dealer" your department policy at the time of the disappearance stated an officer must go and see that a missing person has been found before taking the person off the list. Then, inform the FBI within two hours for removal from the database.

I want to play some sound from a neighbor of Ariel Castro and have you respond to that if that sound is ready.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ISRAEL LUGO JR. , NEIGHBOR OF ARIEL CASTRO: The police came to his house, knocked on the porch door like 20 good, hard times. There was no response. So, they walked into the driveway and looked around. They couldn't see nothing so they got back in the car and went up on their way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So neighbors are saying that they did make complaints. There were things that were suspicious at that house. The department has said no neighbors have ever called police with a tip on Castro's home.

Is it the position of the Cleveland Police Department that all these neighbors that are making these comments, that they're not telling the truth?

TOMBA: Well, that's not our position. I can tell you that is the truth. We have searched and searched all of our computer-aided dispatch for any assignments to that house and any other reason that the police were dispatched there.

The police did not respond to that location. There were other incidents where neighbors and people throughout the neighborhood have said things. Those have all been investigated and they are not true.

TAPPER: One other argument being made in Cleveland as you know, there is a history of accusations at the Cleveland Police Department does not take as seriously as it should the complaints and the concerns of people in low income neighborhoods. Nearly 37 percent of people in Castro's zip code live under the poverty line.

How does your department respond to reports that suggest that police officers don't respond as diligently as when there are calls for more affluent areas? Is there any cause for concern there at all?

TOMBA: No. I can tell you I've been a member of this division for 28 years and that the members of the division of police take all the calls very serious and we provide a service to our community.

Obviously, in law enforcement there is a -- at times there can be a perception, but the members of the second district are very involved in this community. We have a commander out here that's very, very involved with the community. If you ask the community organizers, the council people, the neighbors, they will tell you that they're very, very involved.

From the time these young girls went missing, I was involved with Gina DeJesus' disappearance early on and we were just reviewing some of our older case files as to what took place and the amount of staff hours, the amount of resources that were put in initially early on in this investigation to locate Gina was just amazing -- the work that the men and women did. A lot of the men and women are now part of our command staff that worked early on.

So I can tell you that the men and women of the division of police are committed to the community as a whole no matter where they live, low income or any other parts of the city we're committed to serve the citizens of the city of Cleveland.

TAPPER: And, lastly, sir, before you go, does the department regret at all taking Michelle Knight off the FBI database? At the end of the day, do you think it would have made a difference?

TOMBA: No, I'm not -- I'm not sure. You know, we're looking at, you know, we can look at this with hindsight but that is something we're really going to have to take a look at to see if it would have made a difference. We're always looking to improve.

But we're happy that the girls are home. We're happy that they look like they're physically OK. We know they have a long road. But this is the ending we wanted. We wanted to have those girls brought home, back to their families and back to their communities. So, we're happy about that.

As far as anything else, our policies and what we did. We'll always be in the review process to see if we can do something better to serve the community and serve the citizens.

TAPPER: All right. Cleveland's deputy chief of police, Ed Tomba, thank you so much. And, of course, we are all glad with you that these three girls have been returned and are safe now at home. Thank you so much, sir.

TOMBA: Thank you.

TAPPER: This twisted case in Cleveland has gripped the nation. Tonight, an "ANDERSON COOPER 360" special town hall event. While these three women can claim their lives, there is a staggering number of people still missing in this country.

Don't miss "Vanished", tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up, a cry to rescuers. I'm alive. More than two weeks after a building collapsed and days since anyone saw signs of life an amazing story of survival.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us next to tell us how this 19-year-old made it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Now, the "World Lead". More than 1,000 people were already dead. Workers had long given up on finding anyone else alive. And then after more than two weeks, they heard a voice. The voice said, "I'm alive."

Sixteen days after a building crumbled to the ground in Bangladesh, rescuers pulled a 19-year-old woman from the rubble. Everyone is wondering, how was she able to hang on?

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here.

Sanjay, how is it possible that this woman could have survived for so long, buried in the rubble for 16 days?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it gives you goose bumps when you hear it described each time. It's a remarkable thing. You know, no matter how you look at it.

But from a medical perspective, Jake, to your question, the basic supply here. She was -- we hear -- in an air pocket of some sort and able to breathe. You wouldn't last more than a few minutes. Water as well. She was found in a pool of water. I've looked at this in various tragedies around the world. Really, you know, you could survive maybe a few days without water. In this case, she was lucky enough to have some.

Also, remarkably, Jake, she didn't have any significant injuries. I mean, you look at the images of those building collapses, no broken bones, no crushed limbs, no big, open gashes. Those all make a difference as well. It's much harder to survive because of the simple energy it takes to heal those wounds.

So in some ways, she was lucky. She's 19 years old. She had youth going for her as well. But this is a remarkable story no matter how you look at it.

TAPPER: And, Sanjay, what happens inside a person's body that allows them to survive for so long, 16 days?

GUPTA: The body can do a remarkable job, Jake, of trying to preserve itself. And some of this is tough to imagine, but let's say you don't have enough energy, enough calories to sustain yourself. The body will start searching, frankly, for other sources of energy. Your muscle will start to break down. It'll look for just about any source of protein it can find.

You know, as far as dehydration goes, your kidneys will start to do everything it can to preserve the fluid in your body to the detriment of the kidneys themselves. People will go into kidney failure before they allow someone, before the body allows itself to sort of die or even degenerate in some way.

So, you know, it's pretty remarkable when you think about what's happening inside the body. I've seen this again as I mentioned in other places around the world. Each time, it's a little bit different. Those are the basic body processes.

TAPPER: Unbelievable. Thank you so much. And don't miss your appointment with Dr. Gupta this weekend. He'll have the very latest on this incredible rescue in Bangladesh. The three young women freed from captivity in Cleveland. Plus, he'll take a look at Governor Chris Christie's weight loss surgery. That's Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and Sunday at 7:30 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

From the moment her daughter went missing, she devoted every minute of her life to finding her. Amanda Berry's mother did not live to see her daughter's remarkable escape from the house on Seymour Avenue, but you'll hear from someone who kept her promise to keep the story and hope alive.

And straight ahead that giant, fatal explosion in Texas. It's now a criminal investigation. We'll have the latest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)