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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview with Rick Santorum; Who's Really in Witness Protection?; Shonda Rhimes: Hollywood's "Fixer"; Conservatives Targeted; Bourdain Travels to Libya; YouTube Launches "See It, Buy It" Service; NYC Sandy Victims Get Hotel Extension

Aired May 16, 2013 - 16:30   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Back to "The National Lead" and that story we first broke on CNN earlier today, two individuals identified as known or suspected terrorists entered the Justice Department's Witness Protection Program. According to the Justice Department inspector general, the U.S. Marshals for some time could not find them after they left the program.

Now if you're like a lot of us, you learned everything you know about the witness protection program from movies and TV. But there's a lot the public doesn't know about the actual program because the actual program is really quite mysterious by nature.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER (voice-over): "Good fellas" and the occasional good guy who happened to see a bad thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm all right now. I'm trusted. I'm clean. On my kids, I'm clean.

TAPPER: The Witness Protection Program has always loomed large in the public imagination.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Jimmy. How are you?

TAPPER: Usually depicted as a haven for turn coat mobsters. But who really lives within the protected realm of the Witness Protection Program? Well, the public doesn't know for sure. That's sort of the point.

Here is what we do know, according to the U.S. Marshals, the agency that runs the program, more than 18,000 men, women and children have been in witness protection. The marshals like to brag that not one of them has ever been harmed.

The marshals also say the protection program provides 24-hour protection to all witnesses while they're in a high-threat environment. Witnesses receive financial assistance for housing, basic living expenses and medical care. The program provides for job training and employment assistance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The subsistence may be minimal. It still adds up to millions of dollars a year. TAPPER: Gerald Shur now retired founded the Witness Protection Program.

GERALD SHUR, FOUNDER, WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM: We may have to support them a little longer because their language will prevent them from getting jobs as quick as necessary. We may have to furnish translators when they go to see a doctor, but it can be done.

TAPPER: Deputy Marshals decide on a new location for the witnesses and their families and move them.

SHUR: This is a large country. Border to border we can find plenty of place to hide people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They didn't tell us we were going until we got to the airport.

TAPPER: Henry Hill, the late mob informant who was the inspiration for 1990 film "Good Fellas" was also once a part of the Witness Protection Program. Henry Hill was reportedly convicted of other crimes while still in the Witness Protection Program and kicked out of it, a reminder perhaps that even if you're given a whole new identity, it's still you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Of course, it's no doubt a surprise to many Americans to learn that known or suspected terrorists are in the program, but terror prosecutions are in the criminal justice system.

Now it's time for the "Pop Culture Lead," after a rough week of White House controversies, don't be surprised if President Obama found himself asking what would Olivia Pope do? Of course, Pope is the fictional fixer from the hit TV show "Scandal" who proves week after week that no Washington problem is too hot to handle including her own taboo romance with the commander in chief.

The primetime drama is a ratings powerhouse and it could draw its biggest audience yet tonight when the season finale airs proving why creator Shonda Rhimes was recently dubbed by "Forbes" magazine to be the hottest woman in American television.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Need I remind you, you stole this ride.

TAPPER (voice-over): Election rigging, waterboarding, backstabbing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You should not have tried to screw me!

TAPPER: And bed hopping in the White House. Also known as just another day at the office for the characters on the hit TV show "Scandal." The series stars Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, the head of a D.C. crisis management firm.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know what I always say, if it's serious, get Olivia on it.

TAPPER: In just two seasons "Scandal" has gained a loyal and huge following of fans. Last week Pope's forbidden love affair with the president helped reel in almost 9 million viewers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The republic will burn --

TAPPER: Yes, if you're wondering who to thank for your insatiable appetite for all things Olivia Pope, look no further than Executive Producer Shonda Rhimes. I recently got a chance to sit down with the creative force behind ABC's smash hit.

(on camera): So "Scandal" is based on legendary Washington, D.C. crisis management expert, Judy Smith, whose handled Monica Lewinsky.

SHONDA RHIMES: Yes.

TAPPER: What is it about Judy Smith story that intrigued you, that sold you?

RHIMES: You know, what's fascinating to me wasn't just who she handled. But when she talks about her process and why she does what she does and how she handles these problems, there's something about it that sucks you in.

TAPPER (voice-over): "Scandal" viewers aren't just sucked in, they are clicked in. Episodes of "Scandal" often dominate social media chatter with fans tweeting and Facebooking every second of the jaw dropping action.

(on camera): I read somewhere that you have the most engaged Twitter audience of any show.

RHIMES: I feel real excited how we managed to get this Twitter audience is crazy. Every Thursday night their goal is to break Twitter tweeting about the show.

TAPPER (voice-over): She's not kidding. On average "Scandal" generates 2,200 tweets a minute, proof perhaps that Rhimes has found a winning formula for primetime success.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no, no. You need another surgeon for when we pull the rod out of his abdomen.

TAPPER: Rhimes also created the critically acclaimed medical drama "Grey's Anatomy" and its popular spin-off, which just ended its run, "Private Practice."

(on camera): "Private Practice," "Scandal," what are you doing right that other people on television are struggling with?

RHIMES: If I knew what I was doing right then I probably wouldn't be able to do it. I don't know. I think it's fun.

TAPPER (voice-over): Unlike her first two shows, which tell the stories of dedicated physicians, "Scandal" gives Rhimes an opportunity to delve into her dark side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will bring it upon you in a hail of fire and brimstone.

RHIMES: I was definitely interested in getting my hands dirty a little bit. It feels like you can get away with a lot more on television these days.

TAPPER (on camera): Do you ever feel like, well, I wish we were on AMC or Stars or HBO because then I could do such and such that you're not able to do on network.

RHIMES: You're going to get me in trouble but yes. I mean, I think there are times when I definitely feel like, God, they can do stuff on cable that we can't possibly do. What's interesting about doing it on network though is that I feel like I have to be more creative in a way. We have to have incredibly sexy sex scenes where we don't show anything. In a weird way, it forces you to find another way to go at it. That's been really fun for me.

TAPPER (voice-over): Rhimes said she did not watch a lot of TV growing up. The daughter of academics in Chicago, showbiz was not on her mind. But her creative along the edgy story lines have made "Scandal" a ratings champ. That's not all that sets it apart from its primitive competition. "Scandal" is the first network drama in nearly 40 years to star an African-American leading lady.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You having me killed by one of your boys isn't going to help with you and me. You get that, right?

TAPPER (on camera): Do you think that part of the success of the show is because you cast Kerry Washington, or do you think it doesn't matter, she's a beautiful, wonderful actress and the show succeeds on its own?

RHIMES: No, I think it's part of the success of the show. Part of the audience came for that fact and they've stayed because they like the show.

TAPPER (voice-over): Working with some of the biggest names in Hollywood may sound like a pretty decent day at the office for most of us, but for Rhimes, a major perk of working on a show like "Scandal" is getting to experience the life of an American president without actually having to deal with members of Congress.

RHIMES: It's very fun going into the oval office. There have been days when I waited until everyone has left and sat down a little bit.

TAPPER (on camera): Can I sit down a little bit?

RHIMES: Please.

TAPPER: If I were you, this is where I would do all my work.

RHIMES: They worked really hard to get it exactly right.

TAPPER: Right now I'm feeling this overwhelming of deja vu and waiting for President Obama to tell me to leave.

(voice-over): Before the fake Secret Service came in to escort me away, I figured I'd ask for a spoiler alert about what lies ahead for the TV president and secret love of his life.

(on camera): So you know whether or not the president and Olivia Pope end up together.

RHIMES: No.

TAPPER: You don't?

RHIMES: No. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don't. Now we're at a place where I'm just watching where they're going. I know what I'd like to happen, but we're following the story right now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Again, the season finale of "Scandal" airs tonight at 10:00 p.m. on ABC. We wish our friend Shonda Rhimes the best of luck.

Coming up, he's never held back before. We'll hear what he has to say now. Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum joins us.

Later, after decades under an iron-fisted dictator, what does democracy taste like in Libya? Anthony Bourdain will tell us why transfats are feeling the birth of a new nation. Stick around for more of THE LEAD.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The acting director of the IRS was asked for his resignation. But the slaughter of one sacrificial lamb won't be enough for a lot of infuriated Republicans who want to see the White House making an example of more of the IRS staffers involved.

Former Republican president candidate and former senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum joins me now in his exclusively interview first since the IRS story broke. So Miller is out, the acting director of the IRS, is that enough? What more do you want to know about the scandal?

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is, you know, what everybody fears. IRS is going to be the one enforcing Obamacare, OK. We've given more and more and more power to Washington, and we have a lot of people out there who, given the climate in this city, and the climate in the media where as we've seen in Benghazi and other scandals where folks on the left get a pass.

You know, I heard Jonathan Martin talking earlier about, while nobody is paying attention to Benghazi, independents don't even know about it. There's a reason for that is because independents don't watch Fox News. They watch other networks and they've been talking about it.

TAPPER: We've been talking about Benghazi. SANTORUM: I understand, but not nearly to the extent and not for the length of time as the issue in my opinion has been noteworthy to talk about. So I think what a lot of folks are concerned about is that the prevailing attitude here in Washington is the left can do no wrong, the right is picked on, and the more power you give government, the more that is going to be permeated throughout our society and abuses are going to happen. This is really an example of it.

TAPPER: What do you want to happen with the IRS? Obviously, the acting director left. There's a criminal investigation going on by the Justice Department. What more do you think needs to happen?

SANTORUM: Well, obviously there's needs to be a thorough investigation and the truth needs to come out and the role of people higher up in the administration, if any, we need to find out what that is. People need to be forthcoming. I think it was very clever for the president to say that he hadn't seen the inspector general's report.

But that doesn't mean he didn't know what was going on or anybody within his administration knew that those things were happening. There's a lot to find out. Again, it just raises the spectre of government -- more government concentration of power, the more potential abuse particularly for those who are not necessarily favored classes.

TAPPER: I think John Dickerson of "Slate" said this scandal is making Mitt Romney's argument better than Mitt Romney made it. I'm sure you wouldn't disagree with that --

SANTORUM: This scandal -- I cannot underestimate the importance of scandal, not for the purpose of in and of itself a problem, although certainly it could be, depending on what we find out. But it does raise a lot of other issues and allows people to sort of drop their guard a little bit, which may be a personal affection for the president or loyalty to the president just because he's the president and look with a more skeptical eye.

I think the timing couldn't be better, frankly, because Obamacare is just about to ramp up and go into effect. And it is a -- going to be -- it is already a disaster. It will be an unmitigated disaster. You've seen reports coming out with insurance rates, depending on the state that may be double, triple, four times for some people what it is today because, directly linked to this proposal or to this law. You may see uninsured rates go down, not up, expense go up, not down. These are really serious issues.

TAPPER: Uninsured rates go up, not down.

SANTORUM: Uninsured rates are going to potentially go up and you're going to see people lose their private insurance because many employers, particularly small and medium-size employers, are going to kick you into these public plans. So this is an earthquake about to happen. The fact that the president is on shaky grounds right now and people are questioning his leadership and his competence, now his crown jewel is going to be seen as a mega incompetent destruction of the health care system. This is not good news for Democrats.

TAPPER: You were headed to the Iowa State Fair in August. Obviously, you ran for president in 2012. I covered that a bit.

SANTORUM: Yes, you did.

TAPPER: Are you planning on running for president again?

SANTORUM: I'm planning on doing everything consistent with putting yourself in a position to make a decision that is a viable decision.

TAPPER: So preparing but not necessarily trigger pulling.

SANTORUM: I haven't pulled any triggers yet, but certainly we're out there. I've been traveling a lot all over the country and you know, trying to build out. We have an organization called "Patriot Voices." We're trying to build out that organization. We're staying active and involved in the fray. We'll continue to do so and at some point make a decision.

TAPPER: And the good news for people out there who are always concerned in expressing their desire to know more about your daughter, Bella.

SANTORUM: Thank you.

TAPPER: She just turned 5.

SANTORUM: She did.

TAPPER: She's doing well.

SANTORUM: She's doing great. Thank you and thank everybody out there. I know people on both sides of the aisle and I really mean that. A lot of folks have been wonderful from all across the spectrum and supporting her and praying for her so thank you.

TAPPER: We're glad that she's doing well. Thank you, former Senator Rick Santorum from the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Coming up, smuggling drugs through tunnels is not a real surprise, but KFC? Anthony Bourdain knows why some might risk their freedom for fried chicken. Our "World Lead" is next.

Plus, our "Money Lead," the viral video taken to the next level, now you can shop straight from YouTube and we'll tell you how.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In our "World Lead," would you risk your freedom for some KFC? That's what some smugglers are doing according to the Christian Science Monitor. Residents of the Gaza Strip are ordering KFC over the phone and having it delivered three hours later by smugglers who travel by underground tunnels crossing the Egyptian border. It's the sign that the Middle East is embracing American cuisine and all its greasy goodness. Take Uncle Kentaki in Libya, an American fast-food knock off visited by Anthony Bourdain in his latest instalment of "PARTS UNKNOWN." Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY BOURDAIN, HOST, CNN'S "PARTS UNKNOWN": Kentucky Fried -- Uncle Kentaki Fried Chicken. OK, the colonel and his buddies, the king and the clown, have not made it here given the uncertainty of the situation. So in the meantime, places like this have been popping up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Anthony Bourdain joins me now from New York where there are actual Kentucky Fried Chickens, KFCs. First thing I got to ask, Anthony, how was Uncle Kentaki? Was it anything like KFC? Are you sure you were eating chicken?

BOURDAIN: Not bad at all. It was pretty good stuff.

TAPPER: What was the best thing you ate in Libya?

BOURDAIN: Wow, they have great seafood there, right on the Mediterranean. They have a tradition of Italian cooking going back to the colonialized days. So their seafood is pretty tasty.

TAPPER: Obviously I've been covering Libya in a different way for the last several years. You went to a few cities in Libya, Tripoli. You've been all around the world. What stuck out to you in traveling to a country like Libya that just really months ago that was under a dictator?

BOURDAIN: I guess what surprised me was who fought this war, who fought this battle, the people who we met, largely young people, a great number of them who are comfortably ensconced abroad studying in Canada, working in England who came back to fight against overwhelming odds. Who are these Libyans? In many cases they were young, hopeful, likable -- it was not what I expected, the mood, the tenor, the people, the characters, this is not what I expected to find.

TAPPER: Interesting. You also took a tour of a war museum in Misrata. I want to show a clip of this where you were being shown some of the weaponry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is homemade, too, fires big rockets. This is home made.

BOURDAIN: This one?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was from helicopter. We got it.

BOURDAIN: You took it off a helicopter and put it on a car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Do you know what this is for? You know Molotov?

BOURDAIN: It's basically a crossbow that fires Molotov cocktails.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: A crossbow that can shoot Molotov cocktails. You've been all over the world, a dangerous world, have you seen anything like that before?

BOURDAIN: Especially not -- what they were up against was modern Russian battle tanks and they're facing them with crossbows and bottles filled with gasoline, extraordinary.

TAPPER: Lastly, for people who like to travel like you, would you advise people to go to Tripoli or other cities in Libya, or is it still not safe?

BOURDAIN: Look, it was a very tense shoot. It's an ever changing security situation there. As Libyans themselves will tell you, they're trying to get their act together. They think it's going to be some time. At the earliest safe opportunity I would advise people to go. It's an extraordinary country with incredible history. A lot to see, but maybe I'd wait a bit, yes.

TAPPER: Wait a bit. OK, I will take your advice then. Thank you, Anthony Bourdain "PARTS UNKNOWN," of course, that airs right here on CNN on Sundays.

It's been almost seven months since Hurricane Sandy took a chunk out of the Jersey Shore, but hundreds of people are still sitting in hotel rooms waiting to find new homes. Today, they got a little bit of good news. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now it's time for the "Money Lead." The company that brought you the virtual wallet has come up with a new way to help you spend that online cash. Google is adding shoppable technology to YouTube that would let you click on things you like on things you like on videos and buy them instantly.

A few brands have already started using the service. It basically includes links to products and provides on screen product information. You can only use the service on each brand's individual channel page.

On to the "Buried Lead," stories not getting enough attention, at least as much as we think they should. Superstorm Sandy victims who are still in hotels seven months after the storm, they will no longer be getting kicked out of hotels at the end of the month.

A judge ruled that New York City must continue to pay to shelter roughly 900 Sandy evacuees who still don't have permanent homes to move into. The decision was first reported by the "Wall Street Journal." Many families still without a place to live are among the poorest Sandy victims. The city says it spent more than $60 million over six months housing thousands of families since the storm ran over the coastline.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I leave you now in the very capable hands of Wolf Blitzer. He's right next door in this place we call "THE SITUATION ROOM." Mr. Blitzer, take it away.