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Supreme Court Guts Voting Rights Act; NSA Leaker Search; Obama's Climate Change Plan; Interview with Filmmaker James Cameron

Aired June 25, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Here's a little Russian language lesson for you. The word is nyet.

I'm Jake Tapper, and this is THE LEAD.

The world lead, Edward Snowden, the man who keeps spilling America's intelligence secrets, appears to be in the middle of a long layover in Moscow. If you were expecting Russia to extradite him, well, you don't know Vladimir Putin.

The money lead. She admits to having used the N-word in the past and dreaming up what sounds like a "Django Unchained"-themed wedding party. But now she's lost her TV shows and endorsements deals. Some say she got a raw deal. Can Paula Deen's fan salvage her career?

And the national lead. It's considered the most important piece of civil rights legislation ever, but today the Supreme Court made some major changes to the Voting Rights Act, saying the days of Jim Crow, fire hoses and German shepherds are over. I will get the Reverend Jesse Jackson's reaction to the decision.

We'll begin with the world lead. The theme from the James Bond movie "From Russia With Love," it really takes you back to a time and place when relations with Russia were tense and uncompromising. Good thing that is all the in past, right? Well, Russian President Vladimir Putin today cleared up the mystery of the whereabouts of Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor responsible for maybe the biggest intelligence leak in U.S. history.

He said, yes, Snowden is in Moscow and, no, the Russians will not turn him over to the U.S. So, those tense and uncompromising days of yesteryear not exactly back , but there may be a certain nostalgia in the air.

According to Putin, Snowden is in the transit area of the Moscow airport. He has not officially crossed the border into Russia, so he's in a travel limbo like Tom Hanks in "The Terminal." Russia is now the second frenemy to brush off the U.S. over Snowden after China refused to take any responsibility for his exit from Hong Kong.

While the U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with Russia, the White House says there's a clear legal basis to expel him. His passport has reportedly been revoked and he's facing espionage charges. The White House released a statement reading in part: "We are asking the Russian government to take action to expel Mr. Snowden without delay and to build upon the strong law enforcement cooperation we have had, particularly since the Boston Marathon bombing."

That level of cooperation is, of course, up for debate. So what happens if someone were to, say, try to poison Snowden's duty-free vodka? Glenn Greenwald, one of the reporters who has been working with Snowden, tells Eli Lake of The Daily Beast Snowden has taken -- quote -- "extreme precautions" in that event.

Greenwald says that Snowden left encrypted files with many different people who can only access them if anything happens to him, kind of like the fast one Tom Cruise pulls at the end of "The Firm."

Joining me now, Julia Ioffe, senior editor for "The New Republic," and Peter Brookes, former CIA officer and former deputy assistant secretary of defense during the George W. Bush administration.

Thank you both for being here. We appreciate it.

Peter, I want to start with you.

Putin says Russia's special security services are not engaged with him, with Snowden, despite the sensitive information he has. What's your take on this?

PETER BROOKES, FORMER CIA OFFICER: That's certainly a possibility. I kind of doubt it.

I would imagine the Russians are looking for the best deal here, what's going to benefit Russia the most, whether dragging this story out, making Obama look bad or trying to get at the information he already has.

TAPPER: Do you think there's any possibility, Julia, that he walks into Russia with these three computers packed with all this intelligence information, do you think there's any chance that the Russians now do not possess every gigabyte on those computers?

JULIA IOFFE, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": I don't think there's any chance of that. A source in the Russian security services told a Reuters reporter in Sheremetyevo Airport that whatever is on those computers is -- quote -- "a tasty morsel" for any security service, including our own.

BROOKES: Of course, the Chinese probably already have it, so maybe they will get it from the Chinese.

TAPPER: Do you think that any other president with any other relationship with the head of Russia would be able to get a different result than what we're getting right now?

BROOKES: Look, we have got from reset to regret with Russia.

The meeting at the G8 was a total disaster for Obama. Russia is unhappy. Remember the spy scandal? I think I was on here with you and you were wearing that wig, remember?

(LAUGHTER) BROOKES: But, no, this is an opportunity to make Washington look bad. This is an opportunity to, you know, bolster Russia as an -- image in the international community. So I think they're trying to take advantage of Obama's weakness.

TAPPER: Do you think that any president, any U.S. president could be handling this any differently?

IOFFE: I think it could be handled differently, if not for two words, Viktor Bout. So, if maybe this came before Viktor Bout -- I don't know if you remember the arms smuggler, the Russian arms smuggler who was nabbed in Thailand and then taken to the U.S. for trial and he's still in prison here.

The Russians were about as mad at that as we are about Edward Snowden. So, I think -- and we did not extradite him, as Russia asked. So, I think maybe the Americans would have been able to get a better deal before Viktor Bout, but now...

BROOKES: And Magnitsky, too.


BROOKES: That he was a Russian accountant who died in a Russian prison. And there's been some U.S. legislation about at that limiting the travel of some Russians to the United States.

They were very, very unhappy about that.

TAPPER: Do you think there's any possibility? I mean, would there be a prisoner swap? Is that crazy to think?

IOFFE: I don't think so. I think Snowden is going to stay in Moscow.

TAPPER: You think he's just going to stay there?

IOFFE: Yes. I don't think he's going to make it to Ecuador.

TAPPER: Because?

IOFFE: Just a hunch reporting out of there. And also he has these -- he has so much knowledge that's valuable to the Russians. Also, he has revenge potential for the Russians. Just keeping him there while we keep Viktor Bout is just so -- it probably tastes so good to the Russians.

BROOKES: The only thing I would say differently is that he goes from whistle-blower to spy in that case, if he starts turning this stuff over willingly.

He's had -- there's been some revelations. He told the Chinese that NSA was spying on them. And so we have charged him with espionage. But I think it makes it -- lowers his status significantly if he goes to a country like North Korea or Cuba Venezuela or Ecuador or Russia or something along those lines. I doubt very much he will stay in Russia. It could also be a ruse here. He has a very strong support network and they could be saying he's going this place and he's going in another direction. The possibility of him diverting his travel is possible as well.

IOFFE: If the Russians let him go.

TAPPER: All right, Julia Ioffe and Peter Brookes, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

Coming up in the money lead, just when it looked as though her career had curdled, fans are on a mission to save Paula Deen. But will the comments flooding Food Network's Facebook page help or hurt her cause?

And more national news. The Supreme Court makes some major changes to the Voting Rights Act, the majority agreeing that the American that elected Barack Obama is not the America of our parents and grandparents. The Reverend Jesse Jackson will weigh in.


TAPPER: Welcome back to the lead.

Now it's time for the money lead. She got dropped from the Food Network and lost a major endorsement deal for behavior offensive to millions of Americans, admitting she had used the racist N-word and discussing her desire to have what sounds something like an Antebellum South-themed wedding.

But just when it seemed as though butter queen Paula Deen's career was toast, friends are family are now stepping up to show that they have got her back. Deen's sons spoke with Chris Cuomo on CNN's morning show "NEW DAY." They say the allegations their mother is a racist are absurd. The fallout came after Deen was deposed and asked about her views on African-Americans during a lawsuit alleging discrimination.

But Deen's sons say the backlash has prompted team Deen to come out in full force.


JAMIE DEEN, PAULA DEEN'S SON: We have so much local support here and so many friends that have come forward and spoken out for our family. It's just much like as many people would compliment you times 10 would complain about.

We've been in the service business for 25 years, and so many people enjoy it, but there's always one person that's going to be most vocal about their disappointment for one reason or another.


TAPPER: Now, this is not just the story about a businesswoman or her brand.

There is a horrific history of racism in this country. And studying the reaction to Paula Deen's comments is one way to look at where we are as a country on racial issues. Deen supporters have been letting the Food Network have it ever since the announcement that her contract wouldn't be renewed. One fan wrote, "I don't care if she is or isn't racist. I just want to help her make a pie. This is Food Network, not let's play politically correct network."

Here's another post from Deen supporter Patti White: "I hope Food Network channel goes down the drain. We support and love you, Paula Deen. You are an inspiration to all. Wherever you go, we will follow you."

Is it possible that despite all this controversy, Paula Deen's brand could actually rise faster than an artery-clogging biscuit?

NPR pro and vice chairman of Howard Bragman joins me now live from Los Angeles.

Howard, thanks for joining me.

There's actually a Tumblr account called White People mad at the Food Network that shows a collection of posts supporting Deen. Are you surprised that the Food Network is getting so much heat from her fans?


I'm surprised it didn't come a little sooner. We live in a very polarized society. No matter what position you have, there's somebody who is contrary to it out there. And with social networking sites and such, they all want to make their point of view held and known very strongly.

So, no, of course, Paula Deen has supporters out there. Of course, there's a lot of discussion on whether or not Paula Deen was truly racist. What she said was inappropriate. And some people just want to let Paula Deen make biscuits.

TAPPER: Paula Deen will do her first interview tomorrow on "The Today Show." The last time she was supposed to go on, she canceled it last minute. Then she issued a series of YouTube videos. The whole thing was something of a train wreck.

What do you think she should do tomorrow to try to turn the tide in all of this? Being accused of being racist is one of the harshest things you can be accused of in public life.


Well, what I think she has to do, the first thing is understand it's not going to turn around with one interview. What she really hopes she can achieve is to stop the bleeding. OK? And by bleeding, I mean her sponsors leaving her, her network leaving her. She has to start to define herself. She's been defined by her deposition. She's been defined by a lot of outsiders. She's been defined by the media.

We haven't heard much from her defining her life, who she is, what her feelings are about, how this horrible deposition came to be and some of these words that really didn't belong in that kind of document, and with a lot of sincerity, a lot of compassion, a lot of contrition.

TAPPER: Now, I think what has been so damaging to her is not just the admission that she used the N-word, but also the idea that she contemplated or fantasized about having this wedding that seemed to have this romantic notion of the South during a horrible, horrible era, a really bad time for this nation, the "Django Unchained" era.

What does she need to say? Obviously, this a woman who is in her 60s and raised in Georgia. We understand there's a context here, but what does she need to say to people to make them understand that those views do not represent who she is?

BRAGMAN: She needs to explain where she came from, how she was brought up, how she came to these kind of understandings.

She needs to show compassion for the African-American community. I think there's African-Americans in her organization, at her restaurant. She needs to own that, and yet separate herself from it at the very same time.

But it's interesting. There were so many mistakes made. You know, half the mistake is what you do. The other half of the mistake is how you handle it. And, on both sides of this, Jake, it's just been a disaster from, number one, not settling the lawsuit, not being prepared for the deposition, missing an interview, bad apologies.

It's almost shocking as we sit here, I think guys like you and I who deal in this world, we're a little surprised it was it was handled so ham-handedly.

TAPPER: It was quite a spectacle. It's almost as if there wasn't a public relations person there, but we're told that there was at least one.

Going forward, beyond this interview, what can she do other than contrition? Does she need to begin a dialogue about racism in this country?

BRAGMAN: I think she needs to reach out to the aggrieved community. I think she needs to make an extra effort to reach out to the African- American community and make sure that she does things for them, whether it's helping feed people, whether it's hiring people.

She has to show that there's a level of I've done this community wrong and I'm going to make it right. After she does this interview tomorrow, I would be advising her not to do more interviews. I would advise most of her work to be behind the scenes. She needs to keep her sponsor on board.

TAPPER: All right. Howard Bragman, thank you so much.

BRAGMAN: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Next in national news, the guy who made the movie "Titanic" worried about rising sea levels. I'll talk to filmmaker director and environmentalist James Cameron in an exclusive interview about the president's new promises on the environment.

And money still green on the right or left. It turns out the IRS targeted liberal groups, too. So, is this all a political wash?

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Now, it's time for "The National Lead." Back in 2008, candidate Obama said we'd look back at the time he won the primaries and say this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planets began to heal.

He did not quite hit that level of grandiosity in a major speech on climate change earlier today, but President Obama surprised some observers by talking about an issue he generally does not talk about much.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation's interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.


TAPPER: The U.S. State Department still has not decided whether to approve the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to refineries in Texas. If it gets the OK, the president's liberal base would not take it kindly. But the president did lay out an aggressive environmental agenda, including creating new EPA regulations for cutting emissions of power plants, forcing the government to get 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources within the next seven years, and ending support for companies building new coal plants overseas.

Oscar-winning director James Cameron has been an outspoken environmental activist. He's made documentaries and even used his blockbuster movie "Avatar" to take on the issue of climate change.

Cameron joins us now with reaction to the president's speech.

James Cameron, thank you so much for joining us.

Vice President Gore just called the speech the best speech on climate change ever. But as you know, a lot of members of the public just don't find this issue compelling. Why should they?

JAMES CAMERON, FILMMAKER (via telephone): No, they don't.

First of all, thanks for having me on, Jake. Appreciate it.

No, they don't. You know, it's tough economic times and, you know, people want to pay the mortgage or the rent. You know, they want a job.

You know, I used to be a blue collar guy. I was a truck driver before I was a filmmaker so I can relate to that.

But I think people have to appreciate that you can't have a healthy economy, you know, in an overheated world, the world that our kids are going to live in. You know, you're going to have a very high food prices, you're going to have low crop yields because of higher temperatures and extreme weather changing precipitation patterns. I mean, it's going to be very chaotic and that's going to drop right to the bottom line of the economy and it's going to drop right to the bottom line of national security.

I mean, we're talking about a very, very -- you know, a huge test to the American people that's coming up as a result of climate change. I think the president is showing some pretty strong leadership here in taking on this problem, which is an unpopular problem amongst, obviously, the business interest in the country.

TAPPER: Did you think the speech went far enough or for somebody like you who sees how difficult this is of an issue, to move in the political sphere or is it as far as you think he can get?

CAMERON: I think it's a great opening salvo. I think it was comprehensive.

I thought he defined the problem in clear language. He didn't waste time on what he called the debate with he called the flat earth society because, you know, as far as I'm concerned, the science is unequivocal. He got on with practical solutions, common sense solutions that are going to be beneficial economically and for jobs.

I thought it was a very strong speech. I think it was as far as he can go at this stage. And obviously there's going to be a huge backlash from the right and from special interests. And it's going to be a battle just to accomplish what he set forth, but it's a great opening round.

TAPPER: When you talk about special interests, one of those interests is coal. And there are a lot of blue collar people, working people, who depend on coal. What's your message to them?

President Obama seems to think coal is a major problem. A lot of environmentalists do as well.

CAMERON: Yes. Well, coal is a pretty problem because it's our dirtiest source of power and we're going to have to change. And, you know, there was nothing in this speech about pricing carbon but essentially you are pricing carbon if you're going to go after emissions from dirty coal plants.

I think, you know, that we have to do what's in the common good -- not just for the country but for the world at large -- and we've got to phase out coal. It's that simple. There's always going to be a temptation to use coal because it's the cheapest power out there.

But look at China. We don't want to wind up like this with absolutely unbreathable air. I was in Beijing just recently and it's literally unbreathable air. And a lot of it is particulate pollution from coal.

So, this is just something we have to face. And it's the nature of this country to have certain businesses that are supplanted by other businesses that are more in the common good and/or more profitable.

If coal isn't profitable, nobody would mourn its demise. We only mourn its demise now because it's profitable. And so, we have to look clearly at that. That's where I think the role of government should be in our lives.

TAPPER: All right. Environmentalist and filmmaker James Cameron, thanks so much. We look forward to seeing you out in Los Angeles sometime soon.

CAMERON: I appreciate it, Jake. Thanks a lot.

TAPPER: So, while Edward Snowden is supposedly holed up in the Moscow airport, our political panel has been similarly holed up in our green room.

Ross Douthat from "The New York Times", you've never had a layover as long as Snowden in Russia?

ROSS DOUTHAT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: There was a grim 12 hours I spent in Albany international airport, which as everyone knows is the Moscow of Upstate New York. So, except for the KGB agents watching over his shoulder, I've totally experienced the same thing.

TAPPER: You're trying to smuggle Buffalo Wings back to Washington, D.C.

DOUTHAT: I can't speak to that, Jake.

Stick around where voter rights and in twist to the IRS scandal have top billing.