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Zimmerman Trial Continues; Boston Bombing Suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Indicted on 30 Counts; Senate Passes Immigration Reform Bill; Anthony Weiner Comeback Examined

Aired June 27, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Have you ever seen a witness make "Yes, sir" sound so much like, "Go to hell"?

I'm Jake Tapper and this is THE LEAD.

The national lead. She was the last person to talk to Trayvon Martin, if you don't count George Zimmerman, Martin's friend on the stand for hours today and not bother interesting to hide her irritation with Zimmerman's defense attorney.

Also in national news, 30 counts, including 17 that could result in the death penalty. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the Boston terrorist attacks, indicted today by a federal jury.

And the politics lead. Happening this very minute, after years of arguments, false starts and dead ends, the Senate is on the verge of finally passing a bill to overhaul immigration laws. But what are the odds it will get through the House and actually become the law of the land?

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

We begin with the national lead and the case that touches on thorny events and important debates about race, racial profiling and self- defense. In the trial of George Zimmerman, accused of the second- degree murder of the unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, all eyes were again on the prosecution's star witness, who spent more than five hours on the stand today.

Rachel Jeantel says she was on the phone with Trayvon Martin just as his fatal fight with Zimmerman began. Her testimony is critical for both the state and the defense. Defense attorney Don West today pressed Jeantel on claims that she heard Trayvon Martin yelling get off, get off just before the phone call dropped out and he got her to back off claims that she heard Martin get hit.


DON WEST, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: So the last thing you heard was some kind of noise like something hitting somebody?

JEANTEL: And Trayvon got hit. Trayvon got hit.

WEST: You don't know that, do you? JEANTEL: No, sir.

WEST: You don't know that Trayvon got hit.

JEANTEL: He could...


WEST: You don't know that Trayvon didn't at that moment take his fist and drive it into George Zimmerman's face.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please lower your voice.

WEST: Do you?

JEANTEL: No, sir.


TAPPER: Cross-examination, the defense repeatedly tried to get Jeantel to say that it was Trayvon Martin who confronted Zimmerman and not the other way around. But no matter how attorney West worded his question, her fundamental story did not change.


WEST: That's why you weren't worried. That's why you didn't do anything. It was because Trayvon Martin started the fight and you knew that.

JEANTEL: No, sir. I don't know what you are talking about.

WEST: I thought in fact that you said that it could have been for all you know Trayvon Martin smashing George Zimmerman in the face is what you actually heard.


WEST: Yes, just earlier today.

JEANTEL: By who?

WEST: By you.

JEANTEL: You didn't get that by me.

WEST: But you thought it was just a fight because it was one you that you knew Trayvon Martin was planning to start.

JEANTEL: No, sir. If he was going to confront the man, he would have told me, I'm about to confront the man and see what he wants. He did not tell me that, sir. He just told me he tried to get home, sir, but the man was still following -- following him, sir.


TAPPER: Let's go live now to CNN's Martin Savidge, who is outside the courtroom in Sanford, Florida.

Martin, the defense clearly today wanted to paint this witness as someone who could not be trusted. Do you think it worked? And how were the jurors reacting to her testimony?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. A lot of times it looked like you had a clash of cultures going on here. You also had a generational divide that was taking place and then it seemed that there was a test of wills that was going on between Don West and, of course, the young lady on the stand.

They were able to not poke holes in her story. They were questioning essentially things that she had said in previous testimony before she took the stand and what she is now saying.

But for the most part, on the stand, she was strong. She stood by what she has said and that's essentially that she heard George Zimmerman sounding like the aggressor. She said she heard the phone bump and then she heard that famous wet grass line, insinuating there was some sort of fight and she maintains that George Zimmerman was on top because what she said is Trayvon is saying, get off, get off. Those are very powerful for the prosecution.

As far as how the jury took this all in, some were very attentive, taking notes. Others at times, especially when Don kept repeating over and over the questions that dragged on for hours, basically seemed to have had enough. We really won't know. There a lot of opinions on this, but six only really matter.

TAPPER: All right, Martin, thank you so much.

Jeantel didn't seem as easily rattled on the stand today compared with yesterday's cross-examination, when she often appeared combative and frustrated with the defense, like a moody teenager, perhaps. Still, you could tell from her body language that the witness box was pretty much the last place she wanted to be.

But look at how she chose to answer the bulk of the attorney's questions.


JEANTEL: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir.


TAPPER: Let's go live to CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin, who is in Sanford, and CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin live from New York.

Sunny , do you think she may gotten something of a talking to about her demeanor in court yesterday?



HOSTIN: I'm not sure. When you're on the witness stand, certainly you're not supposed to be coached. I think she came across more often than not just very raw, very authentic, not coached. But there was a difference between her demeanor yesterday and her demeanor today.

Perhaps you can -- she attributed it to having slept, having had a good night's sleep. Perhaps she was just more comfortable on the witness stand. Being on the witness stand is a very daunting experience for someone for the first time, but I have had witnesses that get on.

At first, they are very, very nervous. They sometimes are a bit combative. And then as the testimony goes on, they get a little bit more comfortable. We know that she was a reluctant witness. She didn't want to come forward from the very beginning, and perhaps we were seeing a little bit of that.

But I will say, Jake, that I think when you speak to jurors, those reluctant witnesses are the ones that they tend to believe a bit more, because they're not trying stealth. They're not trying to write a book, they're not trying to be flamboyant. They're just being authentic.

TAPPER: There were some key moments during today's trial, particularly surrounding whether or not she had actually heard Trayvon Martin telling Zimmerman to get off of him or if she said she could have maybe heard Trayvon Martin say that. Let's take a listen.


WEST: According to this transcript that you just saw, when Mr. de la Rionda said, "Could you tell who was saying that?" You said, "I couldn't hear Trayvon."


JEANTEL: I couldn't hear it. Read the next page, sir.

WEST: "Could you tell who was saying that?"

"I could have heard Trayvon."

JEANTEL: I could hear Trayvon.

WEST: "Could have" is what this says.

JEANTEL: Trust me, they messed up.


TAPPER: Jeffrey, explain the significance of that moment.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the issue is did she say that she heard him say, heard Trayvon say get off, get off or did she say, well, I could have heard him say get off, get off?

It's a big difference, but I think it also plays into a larger theme of the cross-examination, which is any time there was an ambiguity in the testimony, Rachel made it more incriminating, that it wasn't just mistakes. Everybody can make a mistake, but all the mistakes went in the same direction.

That was the point West was trying to make. And I actually thought it was an effective cross-examination. I think she's still a prosecution witness, but I think a lot of what she said has been at least somewhat neutralized.

TAPPER: Here's another key moment when Jeantel is asked about exactly what she heard Martin tell Zimmerman when the confrontation began.


WEST: Are you sure those were the words that Trayvon Martin said or could you have been sort of trying to figure out what was said and that's what you came up with?

JEANTEL: I'm sure.

WEST: Which are you sure about, that he said what are you talking about or why are you following me?


JEANTEL: Why are you following me? Both. Why are you following me?


TAPPER: Sunny, does her confidence with that answer still help the state's case? Or do you think there's too much of a credibility issue with this witness already?

HOSTIN: Yes, I don't find a credibility issue.

And I think that what she has to say it crucial to the state's case. She said over and over again with conviction she heard or she believed that George Zimmerman was following, pursuing Trayvon Martin, approached him and Trayvon Martin then said, what are you doing and why are you following me? And in response, George Zimmerman said, what are you doing here? That is crucial because that would show that George Zimmerman was the first aggressor, the pursuer.

And in a self-defense case, with George Zimmerman saying he was attacked, he was sucker-punched, if the jury believes this version, if they believe Rachel, then in my view it almost takes self-defense off of the table.

TAPPER: Also, lastly, Jeffrey, the defense put a lot of focus on Rachel's testimony that Trayvon Martin called Zimmerman a -- quote -- "creepy 'blank' cracker."

What was the defense trying to do with that? TOOBIN: Well, I think they're trying to insinuate that there was a racial confrontation, but not the one that the prosecution is alleging, that Martin had some sort of problem with white people, as opposed to Zimmerman having a problem with black people.

I don't think that is the most successful part of the cross- examination, but, I mean, just -- I do think that he establishes -- she establishes that Zimmerman was following Trayvon Martin.

As for what went on in the confrontation, I think that's where her story is a little less believable to me.

TAPPER: All right, Sunny Hostin, Jeffrey Toobin, thanks for joining us.

Later in the show, we will have a more full conversation about race in America.

And coming up, the state of Massachusetts may not have capital punishment, but a move by the federal government today could land Dzhokhar Tsarnaev the death penalty on one of any number of charges.

And in the sports lead, he may be the NFL's newest free agent, but Aaron Hernandez isn't going nowhere. Now he's reportedly the subject of a second murder investigation.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: You're looking right now at a live picture of the Senate floor.

We're expecting the final immigration reform vote in the Senate this hour. The majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, has asked senators to vote from their seats, which is very unusual. Normally, they're milling in and out and around the Senate floor in a more informal fashion. We also see Vice President Joe Biden presiding over the vote, one of his responsibilities as the president of the Senate.

Usually doesn't appear, unless like today it's a particularly significant piece of legislation or a very close vote, 50/50.

We will be monitoring the voting, providing you with updates and we will speak with our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, when the results are announced.

But now we turn to more national news. Many have been waiting for this day ever since the terrorist attacks rocked Boston, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev now officially indicted on 30 counts by a federal grand jury, 17 of which could result in the death penalty, such as using a weapon of mass destruction.

He has also been charged with 15 counts, including murder, by the state of Massachusetts. The 74-page indictment reports that when Tsarnaev was hiding in that boat in that Watertown, Massachusetts, backyard, he wrote a message on the inside wall in beams of the boat, saying, among other things -- quote -- "The U.S. government is killing our innocent civilians," and "I can't stand to see such evil go unpunished," and "Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop," and, "We Muslims are one body. You hurt one, you hurt us all," and, "Now, I don't like killing innocent people. It is forbidden in Islam, but due to said" something or other -- the word was unintelligible -- "it is allowed."

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The 74-page indictment reports that when Tsarnaev was hiding in that boat, in that Watertown, Massachusetts, backyard, he wrote a message on the inside wall beams of the boat saying, among other things, quote, "The U.S. government is killing our innocent civilians," and, "I can't stand to see such evil go unpunished," and "Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop." And, "We Muslims are one body, you hurt one, you hurt us all." And, "Now, I don't like killing innocent people, it is forbidden in Islam, but due to said," something or rather the word is unintelligible, "it is allowed."

I want to bring in Deborah Feyerick, standing by live at the federal courthouse in Boston.

Deb, we found a lot of new details from this indictment announcement. What did we learn about the plan of the Tsarnaev brothers before the bombing?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the indictment lays out a couple of new pieces of information, that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is alleged to have done in preparing this pressure cooker devices.

First of all, he bought 48 mortars, with eight pounds of explosive at a fireworks store in New Hampshire.

Also in New Hampshire, about a month before this attack, the brothers went to a firing range where they rented two 9-millimeter hand guns and fired off 200 rounds of ammunition over the course of about an hour.

Now, the electronic component, those were used for the pressure cooker devices, Jake, those were bought online and were received by the mail.

Another piece of information, everybody was wondering about the conversation that happened in the moments before the two blasts went off -- well, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is alleged to have purchased a prepaid phone, which he used to communicate with his brother. The brother then set off his device and a minute later, Dzhokhar set off his before the two vanished -- Jake. TAPPER: And, Deb, there's also a lot of new detail on the indictment about that wild night in Watertown. Tell us about that.

FEYERICK: Yes, absolutely. There were a couple of pieces, a couple of details that we weren't a 100 percent sure of as we were tracking down the story. One of which is that the brother ambushed the police officer and did attempt to try to steal his firearm.

A second key piece is that the firefight between Tamerlan and the other police officers, well, apparently, three police officers had Tamerlan on the ground, they wrestled him to the ground, and then, his brother, in order to try to free him, actually jumped behind the car, the stolen vehicle, and began aiming towards the police, aiming towards his brother, the police jumped out of the way, tried to drag Tamerlan out but they were unable to do it. So, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev ran his over brother over and that brother died from some of those wounds -- Jake.

TAPPER: Deborah Feyerick, thank you.

We met a lot of victims while covering the tragedy in Boston and we reached out to several of them today to get their reaction to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's indictment. They said they didn't want to talk about him and one family had a great reason that we wanted to share. J.P. and Paul Norden, brothers, that each lost a leg at the Boston marathon bombing, are celebrating today. It's Paul's birthday. They are too busy with the party and enjoying another year together to comment.

Happy birthday to you guys.

And let's turn to someone I often relied upon in Boston, Juliette Kayyem, CNN national security analyst and a former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security.

Juliette, good to see you.

It was an incredible reading of all the charges. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces 30 counts, including using a weapons of mass destruction. Is there anything in this indictment that surprises you?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: There a few surprises but I think most of the surprise is actually the tone and that it is Dzhokhar. You read this indictment and there's nothing about the older brother. There's nothing about, oh, he's the hapless younger brother. He did a lot of things to make this attack work and it outlines what that chronology is.

So, there's part of what this indictment, is a public statement with enough about Dzhokhar being, you know, just the younger kid. He was seriously involved with downloading the information, purchasing ammunition and essentially planning the attack.

So, this is just a full court press by the United States to say, you know, he is as guilty as his dead older brother.

TAPPER: Interesting. And what's the next step legally? He's arraigned next month?

KAYYEM: Yes, he's arraigned next month. And have I been predicting at some stage, we will -- after the arraignment, we will get a request -- they will get a request by the defense attorneys for a change of venue. That often happens in these high profile cases. We saw it with Oklahoma City. The defense attorneys will argue if this goes to court, that there's not a single person in Boston who can serve on a jury who wasn't particularly -- impacted, particularly because of the lockdown. We were all impacted and that will, more likely than not, be granted.

So there's probably be another jurisdiction even though the case can still be brought by the U.S. attorney's office in Boston, they just sort of move venue.

But there's a question of whether this will go to trial. Maybe he will be willing to speak to authorities and the death penalty will be taken off the table because it's on the table now and he will go to high security prison for the rest of his life but give us information about how did this actually occur? Because what's missing in the indictment is the question we've all been asking is how much help did his older brother get from abroad? How much foreign assistance was there? And there's nothing about that in the indictment.

TAPPER: And is that what you expect, just as somebody who has some experience, that they will plead out in order to take the death penalty off the table? We don't often see --


TAPPER: -- the death penalty actually take place in these cases.

KAYYEM: Right, that's exactly right. I think that this is -- there are so many counts of which he could be executed. His defense attorney, she knows how to do these cases and I think there's no question that a plea arrangement will be at least negotiated and so that we can get information from him about the planning of this attack and any sort of foreign intelligence -- foreign terrorist involvement.

And that's how I think this will unfold over the next couple of months and this is the first step. But just clearly a statement that there should be no sympathy, there should be -- you know, nothing about him being the younger brother. He was in charge and that is what the indictment puts forward in a way we had never seen before.

TAPPER: All right. Juliette Kayyem, thank you so much.

Another Boston area story for you in "The Sports Lead". He could be catching passes at Patriots training camp next month. Instead, tight end Aaron Hernandez will likely be sitting in a jail cell after a judge denied him bail for a second time on murder and weapons charges today.

Hernandez appeared in court earlier this afternoon. He's pleaded not to the shooting death of Odin Lloyd, who's been described as either a friend or an acquaintance. His attorney argued that Hernandez is not a flight risk but the judge was not buying that.


JUDGE RENEE DUPUIS, BRISTOL COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT: Given all of the circumstances in this case, despite the fact that he has a fiancee, a baby and is a homeowner. He also has the means to flee. And bracelet just wouldn't counter that, nor the $250,000, and deny that advantage (ph).


TAPPER: Not unusual for a first degree murder trial. We've also learn from a law enforcement source that Hernandez is being investigated in another murder case, a double slaying in Boston's south end in July 2012. Authorities think he may have rented an SUV that was link to the scene.

The Patriots cut Hernandez yesterday. And just this afternoon we learned that one of his sponsors, Puma footwear has dropped him as well. And like so many selfie snappers before him, Hernandez might be regretting this. TMZ got ahold of this portrait of Hernandez holding a gun in a mirror in 2009.

Breaking news right now: the Senate just wrapped up a vote on the immigration reform bill. I want to get to chief congressional Dana Bash live on Capitol Hill.

Dana, that was quick. What's the news?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was quick and the new is this immigration reform bill passed 68-32, 68-32, which is generally what we expected based on some of the test votes that we've seen over the past few days.

Look, this is something that is noteworthy and it's worth kind of stopping and taking a breath and marking the moment, because, Jake, as you know, you've been up here walking these halls, you know what kind of issue immigration was for many years, and that was a dead issue.

But it came alive with a vengeance after the last election when many Republican Party leaders said we need to do something to bring the Latino voters back into the fold. And it happened given the fact that the immigration issue was really nowhere, it happened relatively quickly. And what we just witnessed was a way for senators to sort of visually also mark what they thought was a momentous occasion.

Harry Reid, the majority leader, asked every senator to sit in his seat or her seat, and vote from their chairs, from their desk. That's why it happened relatively quickly because they were all there.

This is something that is reserved for kind of big moments, big pieces of legislation. We haven't seen it I don't think since the fiscal cliff vote about six months ago.

So, that's where we stand. Certainly you had a lot of senators, members of the so-called "gang of eight", bipartisan senators four and four, who pushed this making big speeches on the Senate floor. One of those days here, the galleries were filled.

Joe Biden, the vice president, is in the chair, as you mentioned earlier. He is officially the president of the Senate, comes up for these big moments. He had to warn people in the galleries not to say anything after he announced the vote because that's how full the galleries are.

So that's this moment. And, of course, the open question is what happens next? It's got to go through the House, of course, to become law to get to the president's desk to give him this big legacy issue and it a very open question how that's going to happen in the Republican-led House. And, John Boehner, the speaker, even said today, it's got to look very different -- very, very different for them to take up this issue, if at all.

TAPPER: That's right. They might not even vote on it. Dana Bash, thank you so much.

Coming up, apparently, New Yorkers are a forgiving bunch when it comes to sexting scandals and innuendo prone last names because former congressman Anthony Weiner is suddenly pulling ahead in the polls. Could he be the city's next mayor?

And "The National Lead", she apologized for using a racial slur, but Paula Deen also said, "I is what I is." How the scandal surrounding her crumbling empire sheds light on what many consider a persisting racial and cultural divide in the U.S.


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

"The Politics Lead" now. You know, LL Cool J be damned, go ahead and call it a comeback. Only one new poll but it's a key one says that former Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner, whom you may best recall as exhibit A in the perils of Twitter handbook, is now leading the Democratic field in the New York City's mayor race.

Weiner now has the support of 25 percent of registered Democrats, followed by the former and long-time front-runner, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, according to "The Wall Street Journal"/WNBC/Marist poll.

Weiner's wife and young son have been very visible pieces of this campaign this time around. Not only is she standing by her man, she's asking her friends to as well. Tonight, she's hosting a fund-raiser for his campaign called "Women for Anthony."

One woman who would not touch this story today is House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.


REPORTER: How would you assess his leadership when he was in the House?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I won't. I have enough to do here not to get involved in the mayor's race of New York.


TAPPER: A reminder that I have imposed a very high bar on any puns to be used in this story.

THE LEAD's Erin McPike joins us now.

The high bar applies to mainly me. You can do what you want to do.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, any way you cut it, Jake, it does seem that Anthony Weiner's on a roll. How'd I do? OK?

TAPPER: That's pretty good. Weiner on the roll, I like that.

MCPIKE: I think that was actually yours!

But the combination of what people say is a weak field and a well- staged roll-out has really helped Anthony Weiner stage a bit of a comeback.


FORMER REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Good morning. How are you today? Good.

MCPIKE (voice-over): Political pundits, start your punch lines. Anthony Weiner is rising in the polls in this year's wide open New York City mayoral race.

It's quite the turn around. Just two years ago, photos like these ricocheted around Twitter and ended Anthony Weiner's congressional career.

WEINER: I had hoped to be able to continue the work that the citizens of my district elected me to do.

MCPIKE: But it wasn't career-ending. Even in this resignation speech, there was a note of defiance.

WEINER: Now I'll be looking for other ways to contribute my talents to make sure we live up to the most New York and American of ideals.

MCPIKE: And so began one of the quickest rehabilitations in American politics. In April, a contrite Weiner posed with his wife on the cover of the "New York Times" magazine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We love this city, and no one will work harder to make it better than Anthony.

MCPIKE: Six weeks later he made a splash, reintroducing himself to voters in his second try for the office. So far in the campaign, Weiner's past transgressions haven't been much of an issue.

WEINER: Look, I made some big mistakes and I know I let a lot of people down, but I've also learned some tough lessons. MCPIKE: His wife has done more than stick by him. She's headlining a "Women for Anthony" fundraiser today. That support may help boost Weiner in holding off New York City council speaker, Christine Quinn, who is hoping to become the first woman to run the big apple.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What I think this race is about is delivering for New York.

MCPIKE: One poll even shows Weiner with an edge among female voters and with a five-point advantage overall. But another shows as closer race with Weiner tied with Quinn and a third candidate, Bill Thompson.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We're 75, 76 days out and there's a still a lot of unhappiness with this field.

MCPIKE: Despite Weiner's steady climb back into the political arena, one good poll or two is a far cry from victory. The primary is still more than two months away, and if no candidate can muster 40 percent in the party primary, the top two vote getters will face off in a runoff October 1st.

LOUIS: That's when the whole scandalous past really will be brought out and politically litigated. That's when it will really be talked about in a very pointed way.


MCPIKE: Now what I think is interesting about this is, of course, Mark Sanford was sworn into Congress again just a month ago. He obviously didn't use Jenny Sanford in his campaign because they divorced, but he also apologized right up front as he was announcing his campaign, just like Anthony Weiner did.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And they both just took question after question after question until people --

MCPIKE: Stopped.

TAPPER: One thing about Weiner, the worst thing that happens is he loses, he's back in public life, he's gone throughout gauntlet and he can do what he wants to do.

MCPIKE: Yes. Of course, it's a very fluid race right now.

TAPPER: Absolutely, Erin McPike, happy birthday.

MCPIKE: Thanks.

TAPPER: How big a deal is the immigration bill the Senate just passed? Well, big enough that they were actually sitting down in their assigned seats to cast their votes, but Paul Begala, they wanted 70 votes. They got 68. Will the formality be enough to impress the House, do you think?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It's going to be really tough. I don't think the House cares very much what the Senate does, but it does put some pressure on them. Let's see how they respond to the pressure. John Boehner, the ball is in your court.

TAPPER: All right, we'll be right back with the "Politics Lead." Immigration reform passes the Senate.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. It has been an explosive week for race relations in America, the debate in the George Zimmerman trial over the use of the term "cracker," Paula Deen's empire imploding after she admitted to using a racial slur and the back drop at -- the back drop to it all the Supreme Court striking down a key provision of the voting rights act with Chief Justice John Roberts declaring that times have changed. Well, times have changed but how much.

Here to talk about all of this is Clarence Page, columnist for the "Chicago Tribune" and Clinton Yates, columnist for the "Washington Post." Gentlemen, thanks for being here. Clarence, I want to play an exchange from Defense Attorney Don West and Trayvon Martin's friend, Rachel Jeantel, from today.


DON WEST, ZIMMERMAN'S DEFENSE LAWYER: Do people that you live around and with call white people creepy ass crackers?

RACHEL JEANTEL, TRAYVON MARTIN'S FRIEND: Not creepy but cracker, yes.


TAPPER: I didn't know that that phrase was -- that cracker was still used a lot. What do you think is the significance of that? There are a lot of people out there, I don't know if they're feigning or they are actually offended, but people saying why is this racial slur acceptable and the "n" word has to be referred to as the n-word?

CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, "CHICAGO TIMES": Well, one of the funny things about racial etiquette is the rules are always changing and not everybody knows the same rules. This is a case where we know that the lawyers for Zimmerman are trying to discredit Trayvon Martin in any way they can in the eyes of the jury. Maybe they think this is going to work in that regard. Frankly, I think our society in general has kind of agreed, has come to a consensus that there's no word that quite matches the "n" word for its power.

TAPPER: There's a different "c" word that might but it's not a racial one.

PAGE: Can't say that one on TV either.

TAPPER: Certainly not. Clinton, your thoughts on this, you must have been reading Twitter, people acting like this shows that Trayvon Martin was a racist against white people.

CLINTON YATES, COLUMNIST, "WASHINGTON POST": Two things, being a racist doesn't mean that you deserve to die. TAPPER: OK, fair enough.

YATES: I actually think that word is more of an indicator of whom Trayvon was referring to in an age context. I think he was saying this guy is an older white guy than I am and used such a word in order to indicate who he is. I'm not saying the racial component wasn't there, but I think in terms of what he was trying to convey to the person he was talking to is this is an older white guy, hence using that word.

TAPPER: Another big story about that word, Paula Deen admitting she used it. Here's a list of the companies that have either suspended or ended relationships with her, Food Network, Wal-Mart, Target, Smithfield Foods, Home Depot, Novo Nordis, Cesar Entertainment Corporation and yet, she's released letters of support from at least nine companies. One of her cookbooks is currently number one on Amazon right now.

People are lining up for her annual cruise and she tweeted this today, "I want to express how deeply your kind words have moved me the last few days. Thank you, everyone and love to all." I guess, the question is, how much are these people who are feeling like the media is being too unfair, everybody makes mistakes, she said this before, it's a long, long time ago and how much is support from some unsavory characters who think that word is acceptable?

PAGE: Well, I think that her supporter really comes from her core supporters would be there anyway if this controversy hadn't happened. As far as her book being a best seller, this is showbiz and in showbiz, there's no bad publicity they say. But those people who would be the crossover supporters, those who would be potential Paula Deen fans are obviously turned off.

And I think as far as the companies that are dropping the endorsements, it reminds me of athletes losing shoe endorsements when they behave badly. Companies want to be part your brand as long as you're seen in a favorable light, but if you tarnish your brand, they dump you. This has nothing to do with the first amendment.

TAPPER: Clinton, Jesse Jackson told Erin Burnett on CNN that we cannot use Paula Deen as scapegoat for the errors of our culture. Are we?

YATES: Partially. But I would have loved to see Paula Deen step up and simply say, you know what, this is who I was, this is what I knew and I'm willing to change that. I think we cast people out to the countryside when they've been outed as racists and there's no path towards getting back to some level of understanding.

I think that's something as a society we need to work on just because -- not just because. It is not OK to think that things she said and did were reasonable, but why can't we show her and everybody who believes such racist things a path back to what we need to do to come back together as people. It seems to be we just want to throw people away and never let them back.

TAPPER: Very interesting. Thank you so much, Clarence Page and Clinton Yates. Appreciate it. We'll have you guys back soon.

All they were missing was the powdered wigs. Just minutes ago, the Senate passed the historic immigration overhaul, the vote so big that they turned back the clock to conduct it, but will the House be impressed? The "Politics Lead" is next.

And it was a family reunion of sorts "Sopranos" cast members gathered to mourn the way too early loss of actor James Gandolfini.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. More "Politics Lead," it's all in the hands of the House now. Just moments ago, the Senate passed a sweeping immigration bill offering a path to citizenship for millions living in the United States illegally and pouring billions of dollars into security measures for the southern border. Now it goes to the House.

One man with a whole lot riding on the bill is Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio. This afternoon, he gave a soaring speech, in its defense and spoke about his own family's history coming from Cuba and he laid out his argument for reform in terms of biblical responsibility.


SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: But unlike other countries, we are not afraid of people coming in here from other places. Instead, inspired by our Judeo Christian principles, we Americans have seen the stranger and invited them in and our nation has been blessed for it. God divided the sea and led them through.


TAPPER: Let's bring in our political panel, senior editor for "The National Review" and fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Ramesh Ponnuru, conservative columnist for the "Washington Post," Jennifer Rubin and CNN political contributor and former counselor to President Clinton, Paul Begala.

Jennifer, Senator Rubio seems to be trying to give Evangelical conservative cover for this bill since so many Tea Party Republicans hate it. Will it work? Could it work in the House?

JENNIFER RUBIN, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST, "WASHINGTON POST": It's interesting. Compared to 2007, there are many more Evangelicals who are pro immigration. He's got a basis for doing that. They've been very active, people like Ralph Reed, who is no squish, has been on his side. So, yes, I think that's part of his approach is to reach out to those people and remind them it's not an evil, bad thing. This is a good thing.

It's consistent with their belief system. To some extent it has worked because the Evangelical community has been split. It's not to say that the majority of Evangelicals are necessarily on his side, but a good chunk of them are. I think his approach all along has been to redefine and recalibrate an alliance that is bigger and more sustainable than it was in 2007. So far he's been successful.

TAPPER: He's been more successful than John McCain when he took on this fight in the Senate, Ramesh. But I have to say, it just doesn't look promising in the House of Representatives where there are so many conservatives who have already said there's no way they're voting for this bill. You know, it needs to be a completely different bill.

RAMESH PONNURU, SENIOR EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Right. You know, the Senate passed immigration reform looking much the way this one does in 2006 and it died in the Republican House. Right now, I would say that House Republicans are not going to feel a lot of pressure since most Senate Republicans voted against this bill. There's not a national clamor for this bill. It's very low on most voters' priorities. I don't think people feel worried that they're going to pay a consequence if they vote against this bill.

TAPPER: But Paul, I bet Republicans who are thinking about running for president in 2016 might be worried.

BEGALA: That's a problem. On a national level, the Republicans know they need this. If you want to be president of the United States, you have to do better with Latinos than Mitt Romney. On the Lots of Republicans, like the two senators who are Republicans from Arizona, like Marco Rubio we saw giving that beautiful speech, they're from states with large Latino populations.

But here's the deal, demography is destiny. There are 232 Republicans in the House, 142 of them have between zero and 10 percent Latino in their district. In other words, their districts are all white. In fact, they might be punished for doing this. This is an enormous test for John Boehner. Harry Reid has passed this test. The Senate is harder to pass legislation than in the House because of the filibuster. Senator Reid has done his job leading the Senate. Let's see Speaker Boehner try it.

RUBIN: I think that tomography cuts both ways. On one hand, most of these guys are in safe seats, I think all but about four. Nothing they do is probably going to cost them their seat.

TAPPER: They might get --

RUBIN: I think it goes beyond that even for these people. The Republican Party has a problem not just with Hispanics but with Asians, with women, with people in urban areas. So Paul is absolutely right, at a national level that becomes very important, but on the local level it is also important for these people to make sure they have a sustainable base. Some of these people are in urban and suburban districts.

Paul Ryan's district in Wisconsin has gotten remarkably more Hispanic overtime. He's also been on the pro-immigration side of things. So I think even at that level, I think what's going to be going on is Boehner and the House Republicans say that's the Senate, we don't like that, terrible bill, terrible bill.

Paul Ryan and others will get to work and will put in a lot of stuff that was knocked out of the Senate bill like Rob Portman's E-verify and they'll shake it up, put in different language, reorganize it and when it comes out, it will be not that far from that Senate bill and then the question is whether it can get passed.

TAPPER: Very quickly.

PONNURU: I think it's hard to see anything like that passing with the majority of Republicans voting for it. If Boehner let it is pass with mostly Democratic votes, I think he has a very short speakership ahead of him.

TAPPER: All right, we have to leave it there, but we'll be talking about this. This issue is not going away. It begins the big fight now in the House. Ramesh Ponnuru, Jennifer Rubin, Paul Begala, thank you so much.

Coming up, for most of us three hours in Newark is a bad layover, but Edward Snowden is on day four of his layover in Moscow. Meanwhile, another NSA bombshell is hitting the headlines and we've got the latest.

And in pop, a whole generation dumped their first paychecks into arcade machines trying over and over to take Pacman to the next level. Now the iconic video game is getting revamp and there goes my weekend. Stick around for more of THE LEAD.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now it's time for the "Buried Lead," those are stories we think are not getting enough attention today. It turns out it was not just e-mails from foreign countries after all in its latest bombshell article "The Guardian" newspaper reports that the NSA was collecting and analyzing e-mail metadata from Americans in bulk.

So the agency could know who you were e-mailing, who was e-mailing you and which I.P. address you were using, which could give away your physical location. But according to documents obtained by "The Guardian," the actual content of the e-mails were off limits. The newspaper reports that this program started under the Bush administration and continued under President Obama until 2011 when it was stopped for, quote, "operational and resource reasons" according to a statement to the paper from the director of communications for National Intelligence.

Meanwhile, the man who has been spilling the NSA secrets, Edward Snowden, is still reportedly living out of a suitcase in the transit zone of the Moscow airport where he's been for days. President Obama on his trip to Senegal said he did not talk to Russian or Chinese leaders about turning Snowden over because, quote, "I shouldn't have to." He also sounded pretty dismissive about the man who is hemorrhaging U.S. secrets if not dismissive about the information Snowden may possess.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: No, I'm not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker. I continue to be concerned about the other documents that he may have. That's part of the reason why we'd like to have Mr. Snowden in custody.


TAPPER: Rumors have been flying that Snowden may be making a run for Ecuador. Officials there say they have not cleared any asylum request from Snowden, but it's already hurting diplomatic relations. Reuters is reporting that the U.S. will consider suspending trade benefits with Ecuador after the country already said it would waive them.

Ecuador gets tens of millions in aid from the U.S., but officials there are essentially telling America, it doesn't mean you own us. Meanwhile, the man breaking the stories for "The Guardian," Glenn Greenwald says there's a now campaign to smear him. Greenwald says several reporters have been given information about his background in an attempt to make Greenwald look bad. He says it won't stop him.

Coming up, his family, his TV family, and his other TV family all gathered to say their last good-byes today to actor James Gandolfini, the man who brought Tony Soprano to life. That's coming up.


TAPPER: Welcome back, the "Pop Culture Lead." Friends and family said goodbye to the most well known TV mob boss there ever was today. A funeral service was held for actor James Gandolfini in New York City. His on-screen wife, E.D. Falka was there along with other "Sopranos" cast members and other bold name celebrities. Some fans outside the church were there to thank him for his work with wounded veterans. Gandolfini died of a heart attack one week ago while in Italy. He was just 51 years old.

There may be a renewed outbreak on the lighter note of the disease that swept the nation in the early 1980s. I'm referring of course to the Pac-Man fever. First person Pac-Man is a revamp of the classic arcade game that puts you in the middle of the maze. Yes, you get to walk in Pac-man's shoes. It's pretty creepy. It was created by a British freelance game developer and it's available for free online.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Mr. Blitzer.