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Colorado Fires Continue to Rage; Interview With Newt Gingrich; Ground Stop at Baltimore's BWI Airport

Aired June 13, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Remember how bad those fires were in Colorado last year? Well, this year's are even worse.

I'm Jake Tapper and this is THE LEAD.

We're tracking two breaking in the national lead. There's a widespread severe weather alert for the Washington, D.C. area. Damaging wind gusts of more than 70 miles an hour are expected. We're watching the skies.

Also in national news, a mandatory evacuation order has just been issued for Colorado Springs, as a wildfire turns the state into Hades, 360 homes destroyed, thousands evacuated. We will talk to one man who lost everything.

In other national news, former presidential candidate and House Speaker Newt Gingrich joins us to weigh in on the NSA. The head of the agency today promised more transparency to the public after a briefing closed to the public.

Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Jake Tapper. Welcome to THE LEAD.

We will begin with the national lead. We're watching severe weather warnings over much of the Mid-Atlantic right now, including tornado warnings in Virginia.


TAPPER: Also in national news, people in a large section of Colorado Springs must get out now.

A mandatory evacuation order has just been issued as a wildfire brings flames near the community's doorsteps. Officials estimate the ominous-sounding Black Forest fire in Central Colorado has scorched about 15,000 acres of land so far. It's now considered the most destructive wildfire in the history of the state of Colorado. At least 360 homes are now just gone; 9,000 people have already been forced to evacuate the area.

Many only had time to leave their homes with the clothes on their backs. The fire is expected to keep spreading thanks to dry, windy conditions.

I want to now bring in Dave Rose on the phone. He is the public information officer for El Paso County, Colorado, where this is burning out of control.

Mr. Rose, thanks for joining us.

Tell us about the effort to contain this fire. Have you been able to make any progress?

DAVE ROSE, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, EL PASO COUNTY, COLORADO: Well, there is zero percent containment on the fire itself, Jake.

We do have a perimeter That we have been able to defend, but we have very high wind conditions. Red flag warning went into effect at 11:00 this morning our time. Winds are in the 20- to 30 mile-an-hour range, the temperatures once again today above 90 degrees. And, as a result, the fire is very, very active within the containment area. And we don't have a high level of confidence at all that we will be able to hold all of these lines around this fire.

TAPPER: And, Dave, 360 homes have been reportedly destroyed, more than 9,000 people evacuated. How many more homes and structures do you believe are in danger at this point?

ROSE: You know, that's very difficult to tell.

And, Jake, I want to make it clear that is a very preliminary count. Obviously, with the fire continuing to be active, it's not possible to get deputies into the areas and make a very accurate count, but we're making every effort to let people who have lost their homes know that, have that information as soon as possible.

But there are areas of the Black Forest that we have not been able to get into at all to make any sort of assessment. So it's almost impossible to come up with another number. But it is safe to assume that that number will in fact rise.

TAPPER: All right, Dave Rose, public information for El Paso County, Colorado, thank you so much.

I want to now bring in one man who lost his home and everything he owned in this wildfire.

Mike and Caml Schultz join us now live from Black Forest, Colorado.

First off, how are you two doing?

MIKE SCHULTZ, LOST HOME: We're doing pretty good. We're hanging in there. We're making the best of it.

You submitted some pictures to CNN iReport of the fire damage. I would imagine these pictures hardly capture the scope of the devastation you're dealing with. But tell us, what about the rest of your neighborhood? Did anything escape the fire's wrath?

M. SCHULTZ: We were able to see there were eight homes down our cul- de-sac and all had burned down except for two, down to the ground.

TAPPER: Mrs. Schultz, what are you holding right now? CAML SCHULTZ, LOST HOME: I have a photo album that my son and I were able to save, and it's just a baby photo album of our daughter whenever she was little.

And that's the things that we chose first. We took paperwork and then we grabbed all the pictures that we could. And my son ran around the house trying to pull pictures of the walls and to think about our family as a whole and the things that we were going to want when we rebuild in our next home, and the things that we're going to need to be able to move on, and those things that are special.

And so that's about all that we were able to save was pictures and paperwork and a few items of clothing. But we have each other. And we're blessed. And so many people have suffered loss. And so we're just thankful that we're here safe and that we're loved and that we -- that we're loved and that we have so many people that are willing to help take care of us.

M. SCHULTZ: We have had a lot of support.

TAPPER: How old are your children?

M. SCHULTZ: My son is 16, and my daughter's 20. And I also have another son that lives in Phoenix that doesn't live with us. He's 30. But my son basically spent his time -- we had about an hour to pack everything up. And he spent his time packing up all our photos and everything and wasn't able to get any of -- basically any of his stuff out.

And he had probably over $5,000 worth of LEGOs that are gone. He didn't take one with him. So we're going to buy some LEGOs today.


TAPPER: Well, we're glad that you have those photographs. They are more irreplaceable than LEGOs. That's for sure. God bless both of you and good luck to both of you and your family.

C. SCHULTZ: Thank you so much.

M. SCHULTZ: Thank you.


TAPPER: There's going to be much more as we get more reports from the tornado that touched down north of Washington, D.C. We expect video. We expect photographs. We expect many more reports. More than two million people are in the paths of these storms.

And we will have the latest when we come back on all of this horrific weather, plus the very latest on the manhunt for Edward Snowden and politicians defending the Obama administration's massive domestic surveillance programs.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says it's amazing, with all this data, the U.S. government couldn't stop the Boston Marathon bombers. And he will join me next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

We're going to keep an eye on the crazy weather in D.C. and those horrific fires in Colorado.

But right now, we're going to turn to national news. The head of the NSA briefed members of the Senate on secret programs. President Obama inaccurately asserted that every member of Congress has already been briefed on, behind close doors. NSA Director Keith Alexander telling members of the Senate Intelligence Committee today all about the agency's domestic spying programs, which collect millions of phone records a day, and apparently can access emails.

This is Alexander's second close door briefing of the day. Earlier, he went before the House Intelligence Committee. After that appearance, he promised to share the results from all the spying.


GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: This is not a program where we are out free-wheeling it. It is a well-overseen and a very focused program. What we owe you, the American people, is now how good is that with some statistics. And I think when the American people hear that, they're going to stop and say, "Wait, the information we're getting is incorrect."


TAPPER: Alexander was not the only national security official answering questions he would probably rather not have to answer today. FBI Director Robert Mueller found himself defending the spy program and said they're legal and that members of Congress were already briefed on them, so they can change the law if they want. Mueller revoked 9/11, claiming that these types of programs could have caught phone calls between an al Qaeda and one of the hijackers who is laying low in San Diego.


ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: If we had the telephone number from Yemen, we would have matched it up to that telephone number in San Diego. The simple fact of their detention could have derailed the plan. In any case, the opportunity was not there.


MUELLER: If we had this program, that opportunity would have been there.


TAPPER: Meanwhile, the man who sparked all of this debate, Edward Snowden, is in the wind, with a slew of Tom Clancy types after him. Last known location: Hong Kong. Now, "The Los Angeles Times" is reporting that he used a thumb drive to smuggle out the classified document that he leaked. It was supposed to get a lot harder to use portable storage devices at intelligence and military facilities after Bradley Manning took thousands of classified documents.

I want to talk about all of this with former Republican presidential candidate and former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, who joins me now here live in studio.

Mr. Speaker, thanks so much for being here.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: It's good to be with you.

TAPPER: So, there is a divide in Congress, especially among Republicans, on this surveillance.

I want to play for you some sound from Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who I spoke with yesterday.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: You could go for zero tolerance of any kind of crime but you'd be giving up your freedom. Our Founding Fathers said warrants have to be specific to the person in place. Generalized warrants I think are unconstitutional.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: These programs have helped keep America safe. They have enhanced our ability to go after terrorists who want to bring harm to the American people.


TAPPER: Two very different points of view, one from Republican senator, probably presidential candidate, Rand Paul, and one from House Speaker John Boehner.

Where do you stand?

GINGRICH: Well, I -- look, I think they're both right but they're answering different questions. What people have to recognize in this city is that after you've had the IRS scandals, after you've had Fast and Furious, after you've had Benghazi, there is no belief in trusting the government.

The president the other day, "Gee, if you don't trust all these people, we've got a real problem." Mr. President, we have a real problem.

And so, I start with the question -- Keith Alexander is a terrific soldier. He's done an amazing job with the National Security Agency. But as a matter of policy, I want to know if we're gathering information on American citizens, and we clearly are, I mean, everything -- when you read between the lines, the fact is they're absorbing an enormous amount of data about American citizens. I'd want to have some kind of firewall that said, "You cannot use that in any kind of investigation, except terrorism," because I don't trust the government. And --

TAPPER: Edward Snowden has said -- and there's been a lot of pushback on this from intelligence officials, but Edward Snowden said it would not be difficult for someone like him to access, and wiretap emails, phone calls of a number of individuals. Do you think that's true?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I think people are wiretapped and hacked into every day by the Iranians, by the Chinese, by a whole range of people. So, I think you just need to understand, this is the modern world. The modern world has a level of cyber combat every day. So, there's no war and peace divide. This is stuff is going on every day.

So, whether the American government does it or not, it's being done. I think the difference is the sheer power of the government. Look at the abuse of the IRS and how much that could totally screw up somebody's life, and then say to yourself you have a U.S. attorney who gets access to this kind of information or you get deliberately malicious leaks. You can ruin people's lives.

You also can give the government a power, which is horrifying, to close down dissent by saying, we're going to go after people -- and you know from the IRS case, that is exactly what they were doing.

So, I think the Congress -- I think we should have a national debate. I think the president has an obligation as commander-in-chief to lead that national debate. I personally believe we ought to have much greater division between counterterrorism and regular crime. And that we need to recognize that things I'm willing to have the government to do to stop a nuclear weapon from going off in Boston is not something I'm willing to have the government do in terms of going after ordinary citizens.

I think the current system is much more powerful than they want to admit. It's gathering much more data than they want to admit. And I think that means we have to have safeguards that are very tough and have very severe sanctions, including, frankly, for people like Snowden. I mean, what Snowden did verges on treason. It is not the right of a single citizen to decide on their own that that they're going to steal classified documents and I think he should be prosecuted to the full course of the law.

TAPPER: Before you go, sir, the Director of National Intelligence, General James Clapper, testified before Congress a few months ago before the story broke, he was asked by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon if the U.S. collected data on millions of Americans. He said, "No, not wittingly."

Did he lie to Congress?

GINGRICH: I suspect if he were doing it over, he would give a slightly different answer to that. But I think what he was saying is we do not use information about Americans if we can avoid it.

Again, you end up with a situation of a terrorist in Yemen talking to somebody in the United States. If you're listening to both ends of the conversation, this one's an American citizen, this one is a known terrorist. You just listen to an American.

So, Clapper has been around for a long time. He's an extraordinarily dedicated soldier. And I think that's part of tragedy (ph). These guys who have been out here trying to defend America aren't deliberately lying to the American people but they are trying to keep confidential levels of information-gathering that are frankly pretty frightening.

TAPPER: All right. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, thanks so much for being here. I hope to have you on again soon.


TAPPER: Coming up we're keeping a close eye on those major storms around Washington, D.C. We'll have the latest next.

Plus, it's always been her husband in the spotlight at the Clinton Foundation's annual conference. But today, Hillary upstaged Bill. How large do her potential presidential ambitions loom here? Our politics lead is next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEADE.

We're following some potentially violent weather kicking up around the Washington, D.C. region, of all places. Right now, there's a ground stoppage in effect at Baltimore's airport, BWI.

I want to get to our Tom Foreman.

Tom, what's the latest?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Jake, they're actually ordering people to go to the lowest parts of the airport terminal, or even to interior rooms, like restaurants there. It's a big sprawling airport, closer to Baltimore than Washington, but it's one of the major airports and they're actually ordering people to move into these safer areas as the storm front sweeps through there. We've also had some degree of delays at Dulles Airport and at National Airport, Reagan National Airport here in D.C. So massive impact.

Metro here in D.C. has advised people there may be a slowdown in the subway service from many of the commuters. And I'll tell you, it's 4:30 here in Washington right now. This is the height of the beginning wave of rush hour here on a Thursday afternoon.

So, we're talking about millions of people potentially impacted by all of this, on top of which the storms and tornadoes we've heard about today really have touched down dead in the center of some of the most heavily traveled roads in this area, where truly the nest of computers out there must be incredibly tangled right now as people try to get home in the middle of all of this. So, a tremendous impact at a terrible time here, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Tom Foreman. I want to go now to our meteorologist Chad Myers in our severe weather center.

Chad, what can you tell us?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Jake, the speed, the forward speed of this storm is so tremendous. Just when we went on the air about a half hour ago, the storm was back here. Now it's actually past BWI. So, that's at least 50 miles. That seems like maybe 45 minutes or less -- so, a lot of forward speed.

The only real rotation I have is right here in this tornado warning, now at southeast of Bowie, moving away from Bowie, but moving toward the Annapolis area. So, if you're in this area, between Annapolis and Bowie, you should be taking cover right now. There still could be a tornado in this system.

There's not a tornado warning for Baltimore anymore, but I still believe you're going to get winds around 70 or even 80 miles per hour down across the south side and then maybe a little bit forward to the left if you're getting up towards Fell's Point and on up toward Timonium.

But we'll keep watching it for you. There's still a lot of weather. The problem is not that this was a big storm for Oklahoma or for Kansas. This is a big storm because 3.5 million people were in the way.

TAPPER: All right. Chad Myers, we'll come back to you later in the show.

Coming up on THE LEAD, six months after Newtown's mass shootings still fill the headlines after stricter gun control measures went down hard in the Senate. I'll ask one of the parents who lost a child that day where the effort goes now.